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Ben Fields: Be the right kind of fan

Feb. 09, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

Until high school basketball started, I was put up in a cozy press box for just about every sport I covered.

I'm not going to lie, it's not a bad gig.

You show up, everyone knows why you're there, you sit down, you watch the game. After the game, you talk to some players and coaches, you write up your story and call it a day.

It works pretty much the same for college basketball as well, even though at the Cam Henderson Center you're either courtside or you get relegated to what I call the "kids table" behind the stands aft of the western basket (that is, the hoop that's farthest from Fat Patty's).

But, basically, what all of this does is remove the reporter from the fan.

Yeah, we hear when you boo, and we see you when you hit your feet to cheer on a break on goal or a touchdown run. We occasionally get a look at a fight breaking out in 'ole section 108 at the Joan, but we don't hear what you're saying.

High school basketball is completely different.

We hear everything.

And sometimes it's fun to be caught up in an event.

There's nothing better than a crazy gym, and a smartly funny student section. Although, I do have to call out the kids at Hurricane for yelling "Go home Lloyd" at Huntington High coach Ron Hess for half a game a few days ago.

And apologies to Ron, for telling the students your actual name. I have this thing where I always have to be right.

All that aside, I've noticed a really disturbing trend in student athletics since I started covering high school basketball.

Actually, I suspect it's not much of a trend. It was around when I was in high school -- the same year Eli Whitney dazzled us all with the cotton gin -- and before that, even.

It's the way parents, or adult fans, interact with officials.

I'm not talking about "bad call ref" or simply booing.

I'm talking about heaping specific, sometimes rather personal abuse on these guys.

I was particularly alarmed at a game a few months ago when a man raced down several flights of bleachers at an official, his face red and his mouth spewing language typically reserved for a Quentin Tarantino script.

He had to be intercepted by a police officer and removed from the premises as if we were in the audience of a Jerry Springer taping.

Really, man? Really?

It's OK to be passionate about sports. I get that.

But being an adult and rushing a guy like you're going to fight him, or insulting a ref on a grade-school level? That, I don't get.

There are some schools that are worse than others. And there are some refs who are good at what they do and some not so much.

To me, none of that matters. If you're old enough to have children and file a tax return, you should be grown up enough to not call a referee at a high school game an idiot, stupid or some of the more unprintable nicknames I've heard lobbed from the adult masses at high decibels. I'm sorry your kid didn't get the charging call. Life goes on.

Trust me, as an objective observer, I can tell you that you're embarrassing yourself and you're embarrassing the school, along with the kids.

A coach said to me a few months ago, when he was apologizing for a fan's behavior "If you're in this long enough, you realize you either win, or you got cheated."

As parents, as fans, as people who these kids look up to, I challenge you. Be better than that.

Ben FIelds is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or befields@herald-dispatch.com.



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