For the last several years working as a peace officer I have had the opportunity to both travel to away games with the SHSU Bearkat football team and to work stadium security for visiting teams to Bowers Stadium.
In that time, I have noticed a steady degradation of behavior and decorum toward visiting teams. This applies to how the Bearkats are treated at away games and how we, as fans, treat visiting teams.
Most recently, during our trip to Cheney, Washington and the campus of Eastern Washington University, our players had to endure numerous derogatory comments from many of their “fans” during the trek from the locker room to the playing field.
These comments were peppered with various profanities and vulgarities one would not normally expect from people possessed of any degree of class or education.
The situation worsened as the team entered the field to organized, profane chants from the stands, and was capped off by aggressive verbal assaults as our team headed toward the locker room at the end of the contest.
This is not to say that all of their fans acted in a similar fashion – the majority were gracious and hospitable. However, the impression made by the negative element is a lasting one.
I observed similar behavior last year when we traveled to games in Louisiana and Arkansas, as well as on the part of our fans at home.
When called on their behavior, many responded that heckling the other team is just part of the game.
Maybe so, but it is a tasteless, classless, negative part of the game that no longer belongs once the line between good natured teasing and outright vitriol has been crossed.
Folks, I believe that Bearkats are better than that. When teams visit Bowers Stadium, they are our guests and should be treated with a certain degree of dignity and respect.
Their players, coaches, staff and fans deserve to be treated as guests, because they are very likely going to leave in defeat, based on our current home winning streak.
I would like to propose that we, as hosts, begin cheering instead of booing when our opponents enter the field.
This could become a tradition, not unlike standing and removing your hat for the playing of our national anthem, or becoming silent when a player becomes injured, then clapping and cheering as they arise and are helped from the field.
Let’s show our guests that we have class. Let’s make them feel welcome before we take them to task on the field. Let’s acknowledge that they have worked hard to get where they are and that they are fitting opponents.
Cheer, yell and scream for our Kats, but don’t boo or belittle our opponents. They should be able to leave here secure in the knowledge that we are a classy place.