Players, fans must remember that it’s still only a game

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Hotheaded student-athletes and spiteful spectators gave the high school sports scene a black eye this week.

Wilson County Schools leaders sidelined Hunt and Fike high schools from postseason play Monday in the aftermath of a brawl between the Warriors and Golden Demons after last Thursday’s varsity football game that required school resource officers’ intervention.

In Durham, school officials are investigating complaints that Charles E. Jordan High fans taunted the opposing goalie over his father’s cancer death from the stands during a Thursday soccer game and jeered another player over a family suicide. If the reports are true, these ghouls have set a new low for boorish fan behavior.

The custom of opposing teams lining up to shake hands after a game is meant to reinforce good sportsmanship. Hunt and Fike players turned that tradition on its ear when a fight broke out in the receiving line.

SROs and other Wilson County deputies tried to separate the players and finally deployed pepper spray to break the scrum. Both coaches expressed disappointment in their student-athletes’ unsportsmanlike conduct.

In a written statement that was also published as a letter to the editor, Superintendent Lane Mills and coaches and athletic directors from both schools announced that Fike and Hunt had taken their last snaps for the year.

Wilson County Schools sent the right message and stood up for the values of sportsmanship and fair play. Allowing the Demons and Warriors to continue competition would have undercut the discipline coaches instill on the field and teachers instill in the classroom.

Actions have consequences. That may be a hard lesson for still-maturing student-athletes caught up in a wave of emotion, but better they learn it now than as adults, when a fistfight often ends with a trip to jail.

Soccer fan fiasco

Hollering yourself hoarse to spur your team to victory is all well and good, and the sporting tradition even allows for some good-natured teasing of a visiting opponent. But when the athletes are high-schoolers and the grandstand chants chillingly reference deceased parents, spectators are no longer showing school spirit. They’re bullying vulnerable children.

Nancy Winkler, the mother of Page High’s goalie, wrote in a letter to Jordan High’s principal and athletic director that their fans used shouts of “Where is your dad?” to mock the teen, whose father had succumbed to colon cancer three years prior.

Another Greensboro Page player, whose father, Winkler writes, “committed suicide amidst allegations of embezzlement,” was heckled with chants of “Where’s the money?”

While this ranks as an extreme example of fan misbehavior, below-the-belt jeers aren’t all that rare. Local fans have taunted injured players or applauded their injuries. The pathetic grownups who take part in these outbursts ought to have their heads examined.

From student-athletes to their friends and families in the stands, we all need to remember that youth sports are played for the love of the game. You can be a tough competitor without coming to blows, and you can claim the mantle of school spirit superfan without sacrificing sportsmanship and class.

— The Wilson Times

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