Teaching moments about sportsmanship in schools
To the editor:
The excitement and enthusiasm builds as players from Pittsfield High and Tantasqua line up for pre-game introductions before their Western Mass. Division 2 boys' basketball championship game at the UMass Cage in Amherst.
Then, as the PHS lineup is introduced, the Tantasqua student body of about 100 occupying one end zone at the Cage unites in turning their collective backs to the court. Then, to my further amazement, as the name of each PHS player is announced, the word "sucks" is shouted in unanimity by the back-turning rabble. Clearly, a well rehearsed performance.
Through more than 40 years of covering and observing high school athletics, I must say this is one of the most shameful public displays of unsportsmanlike behavior that I have ever witnessed.
And as I observed this group, males and females who were giggling and clearly pleased with themselves at their display, my next thought was, where is the supervision? Were there no Tantasqua staff members present to squash this behavior? And if they were, and did nothing, does this indicate the condoning of similar behavior that had been tolerated throughout their season?
Further, the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association, which sponsors this event, gives lip service to sportsmanship with a generic "please behave" message during each game. Yet more than a dozen yellow-badged MIAA officials on site appeared to turn a deaf ear to this unsportsmanlike outburst.
By now, we're all accustomed to the familiar and benign chants of "It's all O-ver" or "AIR-ball" at these contests. But when behavior crosses the line, action is called for.
This week, fans from Catholic Memorial High School in Eastern Massachusetts were banned from a state semifinal basketball game after they had made chants during a previous game that were deemed anti-Semitic. It's a step in the right direction, and a lesson to be learned by some folks at Tantasqua.
Bob McDonough, Pittsfield