Ever since becoming a hard-hitting sports journalist, I feel I’ve lost a piece of myself. I’ve suddenly rocketed toward a life of fame and glory, one rivaling that of a hotshot jock. Gone are my days of watching from the shadow of an athlete, swapped for the coveted role of VIN: Very Important NARP. It’s true, fame is great, and I would never choose to return to my old life, but this week, for the sake of the fans, I did. This week I went back to my roots. This week, I went to the bleachers.
No matter what the players think, when it comes to sports, half of the game is in the bleachers. What would a World Cup game be without a good international brawl? What would a Redskins game be without a little offensive face paint? What would college football be without the hot girlfriends to cut to between plays? Boring, boring, and definitely not erotic enough.
So while I understand the crowd’s importance at widely spectated and televised events like these, I had to ask: at a school where the sports are less than prioritized, what role do we play from the bleachers? I took to the stands for answers.
On Friday, Oct. 7, the men’s soccer team played their rival, Trinity University, under the lights, bringing in many more fans than their usual afternoon games. Though the outcome was disappointing to say the least, it was not for lack of effort on the part of either the team or the enthusiastic crowd. But beyond enthusiasm, the cheers that caught my attention were not those that encouraged, but those that put down the opponent. Though all of the students wished to remain unnamed, they allowed me to list a few of the chants they yelled on Friday.
“I like to call people fat.”
“I told one kid he had the touch of a pedophile.”
“Big Big is a turd.”
“Number four I’m your dad.”
“Number nine you are so out of shape.”
And these are only the insults suitable for print. The more extreme comments forced one eleven-year-old fan to cover her ears. “Hearing those things makes me think that some of the students at CC aren’t good sports,” 11-year-old Quynh MacKenzie explained. “They didn’t seem to be aware of the people around them, like kids.”
She makes a point. Because this weekend was the senior banquet, the stands were filled with more parents and families than ever, yet the comments were more vulgar than ever before. So why do students and spectators choose to make such crude comments against the other team? And more importantly, does it really help?
“We’re trying to show the team that we’re behind them,” senior Ian Oakes explained.
“I think it’s most important when we concede a goal,” former soccer player and senior Oliver Skelly explained, “to show them we’re still supporting them.”
And while Oakes and Skelly explain the purpose of cheering in general, I still couldn’t understand the reason for such negative words toward the opponent. For another opinion, I asked a student and former athlete who chooses to remain quiet when watching.
“It feels unnatural for me to be really loud, but I know that when you’re the one playing, hearing the crowd does make a difference,” senior Georgia Bermingham told me. “Yelling at the other team gives the crowd a chance to feel like they’re involved in the game. Like they’re making a difference, rather than passively observing.”
As a NARP, that was an answer that I could understand, especially considering that the demographic of vocal spectators is often comprised mostly of ex-athletes. But that led me to the another question: does it really matter to the players? I asked the athletes who have heard it from both sides.
“I actually like when we’re away and the students section from the other team is insulting us,” former men’s soccer player and senior Connor Rademacher explained. “It just makes me want to prove them wrong. I take it all very lightly because I’ve been the one yelling before, too.”
“It can definitely get in your head,” senior Soren Frykholm told me, “But it helps the home team more than it hurts the opponent. Friday’s game was the biggest crowd I’ve had in my time here and it really changed the game for me. Whether the home team is being aggressive or not, knowing they have a big support in the stands is intimidating, no matter what they’re yelling.”
It’s no secret that what we consider to be games can often become serious. Sports can make or break a person’s day, strain friendships, and fuel hateful remarks. But returning to my NARP stomping ground in the stands reminded me that beyond the negative, what lies at the core of sports is unity. And even if we can’t all experience the joy of winning on the field, anyone, from an 11-year-old to a serious journalist, can experience the thrill of cheering their favorite team towards victory from the bleachers.