The only thing worse than the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s ban on students chanting “air ball” at basketball games…is the collective embarrassment of having thinking adults believe they’re teaching sportsmanship and humanity by doing so.
The state of Wisconsin has lost its mind. Rather, those members of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association who recently voted to ban students at high school games from chanting “air ball” and “scoreboard” have obviously lost their minds.
In a recent ruling the WIAA has decided to crack down on what it terms bad sportsmanship by muzzling high school student from engaging in cheers that reflect “taunting” and “disrespect” to opposing teams and schools.
The list of cheers (or jeers) includes: “Air ball”, “Scoreboard”, “We can’t hear you”, “Why so quiet?”, and “Sit down, shut up”…. and others, of course.
“Any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in a response is not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.”
And the rest of us ask, “What if they don’t?” Empty gyms?
The fact of the matter is that this reflects just one more example of a governing body acting outside the parameters of common sense, not unlike the federal, state, and local legislative authorities. Lord knows…we have real issues of concern in this country and the high and mighty WIAA’s idea of a good place to start is by telling high school kids they can’t yell “air ball” anymore. And they do it in the name of “sportsmanship”?
The fact of the matter is that most people, including some administrative bodies, don’t have a clue as to what sportsmanship is, or means. We tell kids to play their hearts out for four quarters, to play with emotion and passion, we want the student bodies to be involved, the “6th man” at a basketball game or the “12th” man in football, but we want them to sit there like nuns, tweeted CBS basketball analyst Jay Bilas this week.
No, what they really want is some kind of traditional “feel good” for the adults watching, who haven’t known a competitive moment in fifty years, if ever! Our concept of competition and sportsmanship is generational. We want to see opponents help each other up off the ground. We want handshake lines at the end of games. We want hugs and high fives and we want it in a matter of moments after some kid has his heart ripped out by losing at the buzzer. We expect him to flip a switch from warrior to “welcome mat” in a nano second and pretend that he’s happy, he’s genuine, and accepting of the outcome.
But that’s not good sportsmanship, not necessarily. It’s theater. It’s putting on a show for the old folks, but it’s anything but heartfelt because kids cannot escape the emotion of the moment that quickly. Remember when Lebron James walked off the court without shaking hands at the end of the NBA Finals a few years back, and the furor it created over the perception of him being a bad sport? The fact of the matter is James went to the opposing locker room to congratulate the winners after he had some personal time to cool off.
In fact, two years ago the state of Kentucky’s athletic association asked to stop handshake lines in some areas because of incidents of fights breaking out after the final horn. People were disgusted, and some demanded the heads of school administrators and coaches for not teaching good sportsmanship. But at least in some cases coaches figured out the better solution, giving kids that 30-minute cooling off period after the game before having teams greet each other in the cafeteria, and under strict adult supervision.
This, of course, did not suit those in the stands who wanted to see it for themselves…for that lasting satisfaction of knowing they did their part to shape the character of the next generation by demanding hugs and handshakes…and the ban was reversed in some areas. I’ve heard nothing of an update since, but my suspicion is that there’s probably some police security involved now; another bill for the taxpayer to pay in the name of good sportsmanship.
But to the matter of the state of Wisconsin…yes, we’ve lost our minds as a society when we come to the point of banning “air ball”. By the way, we’ve also lost our sense of humor, sense of competition, and appreciation for winning values…replaced by everyone getting a trophy for participation.
What I’d really like to see is the grand director of Wisconsin interscholastic sports, David Anderson, sit down with kids and explain to them why he thinks it’s a good idea to be nicer to your arch rival – a classic scene out of Revenge of The Nerds, with Booger coughing out something unspeakable to the delight of other cynical teenagers hanging on Anderson’s every word.
Personally, in Ohio I think the OHSAA has done a good job over the years by letting kids have fun at state tournaments. I think their mantra of Respect The Game has always left room for kids being kids, and room for some levity, the best example being some years ago when one of the Cincinnati parochials’ cheering section started the chant, “We’ve got Jesus”. The public school cheering section at the other end of Value City Arena immediately came back with, “We’ve got girls”. The arena erupted with laughter, and I don’t recall anyone claiming afterwards that they were disrespected, or insulted.
I’ve never seen a high school game of any kind in Wisconsin, but I’m pretty sure when I say, there has to be something better to legislate…recruiting, ineligible players, or illegal uniforms.
There has to be a worse scenario than kids yelling “air ball”.
An empty gym, perhaps?