Cussing out one team doesn't support the other

April 06, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

Many moons ago, I got a lesson that has become my motto.

It's simple. "It's not what you say, it's how you say it."

Not exactly the Golden Rule, but those 10 words have become a way of life and a loose-fitting guide to my professional and personal life.

Words are great if you learn how to use them. There's fat and portly. Or ditzy and colorful. Even bald and folliclely challenged.

The first terms are blunt; the latter softly gets to the point.

Suddenly, the world of sports is realizing that all participation straddles that thin line between what's being said and how it's being said.


The latest point of contention isn't on the field, though. It comes from the stands ... and right now sports fans in Maryland are leading the way on the wrong side of the fence.

Teams universally have asked for fans to make noise at games. To be loud, vocal and raucous to give their favorite teams a decided advantage on the home field.

The patrons of the Comcast Center, Byrd Stadium, Camden Yards, Ravens Stadium, Fed Ex Field and now even Mountaineer Field have turned out to show their loyalty.

Teams love it. Coaches love it. Ticket sellers love it. And the bean counters in the front office and athletic departments are ecstatic.

But now, they are realizing they are getting too much of a good thing and must figure out how to deal with the monster they created.

Cheering has turned the wrong way on a one-way street.

What once was vocal support and fun antics are now jeering and intimidation tactics.

A ticket to a sporting event used to be a night of fun and rooting for your favorite home team. Now it is a demonstration of mob mentality.

You go to Maryland basketball games, it turns into an English soccer match.

The same can be said for West Virginia football games. It even escalates more in big victories, or even worse, championship events.

How many times over the last five years has their been a story about a city facing violence and destruction because their team won the championship in a sport?

Long gone are the days when people used to grab a six-pack and drive up and down streets beeping their horns. Now it's stealing a case while ripping the horn out of an overturned car.

The University of Maryland and West Virginia University are starting to realize the home-field advantage they begged for is becoming a disadvantage.

Maryland students took to the streets after a recent major victory over Duke. The police came in riot gear to tone down the celebration. The partiers complained they had no way of blowing off steam.

WVU has the tendency to become the couch bonfire and weenie roast capital of the world after its teams record notable wins.

Even during games - Maryland's home basketball game with Duke and, more recently, Sunday's Baltimore Orioles' opener with Boston - the school and the town get a black eye because of the audible yells of "support" that come over the air.

Most fans watching games don't want to hear kids too young to remember the significance of the rivalry yelling four-letter words at the opposition. It's less than funny to hear the words "You Suck" yelled during a classic rock anthem used for celebrating a run being scored.

Last week, Maryland decided it was time to design a code of conduct for fans; something that would deter vulgar and abusive incidents and get back the feeling of what competition is all about. WVU followed suit with a similar project.

It's funny, but the worst thing that can happen to a team is winning. That's when all the problems start.

A lot of the problems stem from alcohol consumption. Some comes from the celebration acts of players who want everyone to recognize their individual contributions over the team's success.

Fans feed off that and imitate it.

Crowds have become angry. They don't go to enjoy competition. They seem to go to make a statement.

Undoubtedly, many of the acts are carried out because of the large crowds. Acting stupid is much easier when you are anonymous.

Maryland and WVU are facing impossible tasks which will are sure to be unpopular.

Both will be trying to put restraints on emotion, but they also will be searching for ways to muzzle the way some people express themselves.

Somewhere out there, somebody will bring a lawsuit against it all. They will claim buying a ticket to the game gives them the right of free speech. They will wave the flag, talk about epic war battles and dust off old civics lessons on the U.S. Constitution.

Somewhere, maybe someone will realize there is a difference between free speech and free speech.

It's a matter of emphasis. The first is America's earned right to talk openly. The other is what comes out of one's mouth when they don't use their head.

There is a difference.

After all, it's not what you say, it's how you say it.

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 by e-mail at

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