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Good cheer is hard to find

June 18, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

So much of life is separated by thin lines.

Life and death. Love and hate. Happiness and despair. Thrill of victory and agony of defeat. George Carlin and Pauly Shore.

Straddling those lines is like jumping rope Double-Dutch style.

In Washington County, we have a thin line of our own - and no idea how to approach it. For some reason, if you attend anything from most local high school events to HCC games to any Hagerstown Suns game, two things are usually the norm. The stands look like Mother Hubbard's cupboard and the loudest audible noise comes from the crickets.

Cheering here is a forgotten art. It used to be sports was a great bonding event with the feel of a spontaneous New Year's Eve party. People screamed, yelled and whooped it up all in the name of fun.

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Nowadays, crowds at many local sporting events sit there like they are either waiting for a dentist appointment or have too much cheese in their diets.

Sports should be the bran muffin of life, the fiber of excitement to change one's disposition.

Buying a ticket usually allows fans to scream, yell, turn different colors, vent and release hostilities ... and that's just because of the cost to get in. Once inside, it's almost a rite to have those same gyrations, which can not only be used to pump up the home team, but can also become an effective stress release for the tensions of the week.

Mannequins don't ride rollercoasters. Why should they be on display in the stands and bleachers of games?

I'm here to tell you it's all right to get whipped up into a frenzy if it moves you. Get wild. Stomp your feet. Yell. Get vocal.

Let your favorite athletes and your hometown know you care about someone ... something ... anything.

But remember, it's like anything else. It's not always what you say. It's a matter of how you say it.

One of the roots of the problem here in Washington County is fans are told not to get too wild.

In the effort of trying to promote sportsmanship - another one of those thin lines - area schools make an announcement before events, telling fans to cheer in a "positive" manner.

There can't be any signs, bells, catcalls or anything that could give the home team an advantage or make an opponent feel belittled. Nothing negative can be said, which takes away some of the creativity of cheering.

Such instructions have stunted the growth of creativity in local fans.

Instead of hanging out of the stands and yelling "AH-HA-HA-ha-ha, Quarterback. You can't throw," big plays in football are acknowledged with polite golf claps and, "Thank you very much for making that error in judgment and passing the ball to our player by mistake."

It loses something in the translation.

And cheering sections? It used to be "R-O-W-D-I-E, that's the way you get rowdy."

Around here, it sounds like an upper class polo match or yacht race, complete with Bloody Marys and ascots: "Pursue them. Pursue them. Make them relinquish the ball. Rah."

Sorry, that's enough to wilt a pom-pom.

So, in an effort to educate the public - and these self-appointed czars of fan etiquette - on the concept of cheering, here's a game primer.

-- Cheers

Wrong definition: Two boxes of detergent or the place where Norm knows your name.

Correct: Noise and comments that back your favorite or home team.

-- Charge

Wrong: Reaching for the plastic card in your back pocket.

Correct: What to yell when you want your team to score.

-- Support

Wrong: Tight clothing.

Correct: Taking a positive rooting interest in the outcome of a game.

-- Sportsmanship

Wrong: Giving a deer a head start before shooting it.

Correct: The right balance between motivating your team while annoying the opponents, all done in fun and good taste.

If you could answer at least three of these definitions correctly, please voice your pleasure and have a good time at an event near you.

Remember, stadiums and arenas are built on the large side so they have space for all the noise. That explains why libraries and museums are usually so cramped.

Stadiums and museums. Arenas and libraries. Just two more of those thin lines that must be straddled.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2310 or bobp@herald-mail.com

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