January 13, 2021
I have sat at the baseline of an uncountable number of basketball games, and they routinely go the same way. If the score is lopsided one way or the other there isn’t normally a lot of intense hooting from the fans who typically consist of mostly adults. But if the game is close? Well, here is how it is likely to unfold.
At the start of the game there is usually a lot of anticipation, hope and believing we have the better team. But we know it could be close. The two teams take the court with all the time still remaining on the clock.
In the first half the lead changes several times, and as the clock ticks down a nervousness starts to invade the good will of the fans and the decibels begin to spike slightly. An occasional shout from the stands can be heard cutting through the increased noise. It’s clear someone is protesting a call from an official on the court. It is a lone complaint, but it is becoming clear there are others who are converting in an unsettled way and may be joining in soon.
By the time the two teams head to the locker room at halftime the score is close, but most of the people in the stands are still able to keep their emotions in check. They still believe their team will come out on top. We head to the concession stand to visit and get a treat or something to drink, then head back to our seats to cheer on our favorite team in the second half. There are one or two of us, though, who are starting to believe the refs are against us and it’s not fair. This game is rigged against our team. We, however, still believe that in spite of this our team will still come out on top.
The second half gets underway (I’m back on the baseline) and it is beginning to look a lot like the first half with neither team able to pull away. The fans in the stands are getting nervous, that one person who could be heard protesting in the first half now has a couple more of us protesting along with him. The refs are still “screwing us!” There is a loud call out in boisterous objection, so that everyone in the gymnasium can hear, “REF, YOU SUCK!” to a call that went against our team.
The minutes tick down, and the opposing team starts to gain a small advantage. To a growing number of fans in attendance it is not because they are better, but because the refs are biased, and they are helping the other team win. It is rigged. That belief is not shared by all who are there, and some are even embarrassed. But the malcontents are the ones making the most noise and drawing the most attention.
In the closing minutes of the game, right before it starts to become apparent our team is going to come up short, the noise in the stands is deafening and the language become unacceptable. The fans on opposite sides of the court are antagonizing one another and shouting back and forth. It is a crescendo that becomes ear-splitting. And, occasionally, someone gets escorted out of the gymnasium because their behavior goes beyond what can be tolerated. Usually, it has already been tolerated far too long. But our team didn’t lose, the officials stole the game from us.
Passion and emotion are power things. They can cancel out our ability to think clearly and rationally. And when mob mentality kicks in it can often lead to violence. Most of us have seen video of a parent storming a youth soccer field, or youth football field and physically attacking an official for a call they thought was so egregious it deserved immediate, physical retribution. I have witnessed right here in Cashton a parent verbally and loudly attack a coach from across the gym floor and have to be removed from the bleachers. I watched, and did nothing, while a parent heckled a group of visiting young softball players during a summer rec game. These were children. This went on without intervention until there were little girls on the field in tears and he sat down. How embarrassing.
For close to 21 years, I have sat on the baseline of an uncountable number of basketball games. I have had one of the best seats in the house. I would agree that refs miss some calls, but I would also suggest they get a much greater majority of them correct. In fact, I would guess it is in the high 90 percent. But during a close game we are predictable.
So, when we hear push back on what this country is experiencing currently, people saying, “This is not who we are.” Well…???
We all saw what people said in 2016, and we see what these same people are saying now (on both sides). And all I can say is, people are predictable. But at some point don’t we occasionally have to remove the people from the gym who are the inciters? Even if they are our friends?
There will be other games!