Some of you may or may not be aware of the recent events involving the West Virginia basketball student section. Here's the synopsis...The team is playing really well and the kids are excited...maybe a bit too much. The last few games have included incidents of profanity being chanted so loudly it was clearly heard across national television, personal attacks on coach Rick Pitino and items thrown at the Pittsburgh team during the game.
Both Coach Bob Huggins and the president of the university have taken steps to help solve the problem, including pleading, scolding, and threatening to prosecute offending parties. It is great to see them taking a stand and addressing the problem, but really, you would think the students would take it upon themselves to figure it out and shut their mouths.
Listen--I get it. I was a proud member of the Izzone for 4 years. I screamed, yelled, chanted, got rowdy, rushed the court, the whole nine yards. I made fun of players' haircuts, warm-ups, etc. etc. I once screamed at Tom Coverdale (who played for Indiana) during a silent free throw that "even my mom hates him." (Which was actually true...my mom was NOT a Coverdale fan, mostly just because he was so good.) There is no question that I was one of the loudest fans there during my four years. But one of the things I was most proud of was the fact that I, along with hundreds of Izzone members, found classier and/or more humorous ways of heckling the other team.
Did I ever sit on my couch and let loose strings of 4-letter words? Sure! Do I still do it now? Of course! Do I get a little carried away while sitting in an MSU bar and let a few choice phrases fly every now and then? You bet!
In the privacy of my own home or in the loud confusion of a home-team bar, you can get away with those things. But when you are a member (or one of many members) of a student section, the rules change a bit. You're in public. You are representing your school. Everyone gets riled up and ticked off at what they thing is a bad call or a dirty play--God knows if you can lip-read some of the things coaches say when that happens, you know they aren't complimenting anyone's shoes. But the students need to remember that actions affect others--their behavior reflects postively or negatively on a LARGE contingent of people.
I would like to think that ANY student section prides themselves on being way more creative then chanting swears or making low personal blows on coaches and players. It's one thing to call Drew Neitzel "Britney Spears" after she shaved her head--it's quite another to make a comment about someone's mother or wife. And frankly, who thinks it is EVER okay to throw things at people?!?!?
WVU certainly isn't the only group to cross the line or chant swear words and unfortunately, they probably won't be the last. But the bigger point here is that these students understand exactly what they're there to do and how lucky they are.
Students sections exist to bring spirit and energy to their teams and other fans. They exist to give students an opportunity to have an amazing view of college basketball that they may never have again. It's all about fun and enjoying the unique and incredible atmosphere of this amazing sport. Maybe this is something you don't appreciate until you leave it behind, but trust me--the ability to go to every game and sit courtside is a true privilege. So enjoy it. Drink it in. Appreciate what it is. Represent with dignity. Be loud, be proud, be creative.
And of course, stay classy kids. Stay classy.