I think if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.
I’ve been going to a lot of high school sporting events in the last few years – even more since I moved to Albert Lea. But of all the sporting events at different Big Nine schools, I haven’t seen anything near to the type of poor sportsmanship I saw last night at the Faribault (MN) High School during the Albert Lea vs. Faribault volleyball game. And the only other time I’d seen anything like it, was at a basketball game in Faribault last season.
And it wasn’t the parents or the coaches or the players. It was the high school fans at the game. It was a prime example of mob mentality with hint of Lord of the Flies. I suppose I could blame their parents or the school administrators, but mostly, it’s the kids. Some might blame culture or society, but if that was the case, we would see this at more high school events, but I haven't.
The poor behavior started right away. The high school kids in the stands, sitting tightly in one section, were standing up with their backs turned away from the court as the Albert Lea players were being introduced. That was rude and disrespectful.
Then it got weird. For some reason, Faribault takes an athletic event and makes it into a theatrical performance. When it was time to introduce the Faribault players, the lights in the gym turn off and spotlights and laser lights turn on – I kid you not! Maybe the Athletic Director (AD) used to work for the World Wrestling Federation (or wants to). The only things missing were Jock Jams and “Let’s get ready to rumble!”
The Faribault High School band was there and did a respectable job, but could have gone with about ½ the number of drums. We’re in an enclosed gym, not out on the football field. Think indoor voice.
At first, I thought it was great for the Faribault team to have lots of fans in the stands, but later the mob behavior started kicking in. By the third game, I later learned, they weren’t just cheering and making noise (which is perfectly fine), they had taken to shouting insults and derogatory statements at the individual Albert Lea players. The AL coach had enough and asked the referees to do something about it.
The gym, because of the way it is built, is a very loud space, but the DJ, I mean announcer, must have been a former disco DJ and partially deaf – because he cranks up the tunes to around 90 decibels (Yes, I have a decibel meter on my phone) and I don’t think I heard any song recorded after 1983. During the time that the coaches, referees and the AD were huddling to discuss what to do about the students’ behavior, the DJ, I mean announcer, played music – he played The Pink Panther – no seriously, he played The Pink Panther. The conversation went on for a while, so the DJ, I mean announcer, had to play a second piece of music (still at 90+ dBs) – his choice – The Charlie Brown Theme music.
Finally the huddle broke up and the Faribault AD walked over to the students to talk to them about their behavior and poor sportsmanship. I don’t know how they heard him over the lilting strains of the Charlie Brown Theme. They acted contrite in front of the AD, but resumed the noise soon after. Couldn't tell if they resumed the harassment as it was difficult to hear over the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
The kids' behavior reminded me of a drunk in the cheap seats at Yankee Stadium, yelling at the opposing team’s outfielder hoping to distract him or psych him out. The drunk usually isn’t successful because (a) the outfielder is yards away, (b) is a grown man being paid millions and (c) could care less about what some drunk is yelling. All the guy (or gal) in the stand does is embarrass him/herself and annoy the people around him/her. Only in Faribault last night, the behavior was coming from high school kids and being directed at high school athletes. And perhaps worse, it was mostly young men doing this to young women.
I was proud of the AL girls because they didn’t let the noise or the distractions get to them and played great. The Faribault volleyball players also played very well and, even though they lost 3 games to 1, their behavior was respectful and appropriate.
I have a couple of friends with young children who live in Faribault. I hope for their kids’ sake that by the time they’re in high school, the school district will have stopped tolerating the type of behavior I saw last night.