Do we care about good sportsmanship anymore?

Is good sportsmanship an oxymoron? Do we really care about good sportsmanship as long as our team wins? Is good sportsmanship overrated?

Should there be a law against bad sportsmanship? Uh oh. That just gave politicians an excuse to make up another law. Surely they won?t trample on our freedom of speech, will they?

I witnessed some good sportsmanship and plenty of bad sportsmanship during my basketball officiating career.

Most technical fouls are given to a player or a coach for unsportsmanlike conduct. Few technical fouls are given to fans, because you don?t want to penalize a team for the behavior of its fans. Besides, there was always a better alternative, and that was to have an administrator escort the abusive fan out of the gym.

I remember when one of my officiating partners had a fan removed from the gym. Suffice it to say, the gym was eerily quiet for a time. The rest of the fans must have thought, ?You mean they can do that??

I seem to recall an incident years ago when Duke University students apparently crossed the sportsmanship line, and the administration clamped down. At the next home game, students got creative. When the opposing team had a free throw attempt, some students held up signs that said, ?Please miss.?

Last December, when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association unveiled sportsmanship rules for its high schools, there were jokes aplenty.

Here?s an abbreviated list of the no-nos:

? Booing of any kind;

? ?Over-rated? chant;

? ?Scoreboard? cheer;

? ?Air ball? chant;

? ?You, You, You? chant;

? ?You can?t do that,? ?Warm up the bus? chants;

? Holding up papers or props during opponent introductions;

? Turning backs to court or field during opponent introductions;

? Waving arms or making movements or sudden noises in an attempt to distract an opponent;

? Fan participation activities while the game is actually being played (the wave, etc.);

? Competitors not shaking hands after a contest;

? Competitors ?trash-talking? before, during or after a contest;

? Competitors celebrating a play excessively by beating on chest; pointing to the crowd; or a movement perceived to be drawing attention to one?s self;

? Competitors celebrating a play by prolonged staring at an opponent or standing over an opponent.

News of the cheer ban spread like wildfire after a female basketball player tweeted about the rule change, drawing a five-game suspension as a result.

It all sounds so extreme. Did officials in Wisconsin overreact? Possibly, but I?ve been around long enough to know there is usually a reason for a crackdown on the behavior of fans or student-athletes.

In a perfect world, we would only cheer for our team without demeaning the opponent. Or, we would applaud an outstanding play by an opponent.

On occasion that happens, but not often.

Conduct at sporting events is significantly different from the classroom, but imagine a student answering a question incorrectly in a classroom and having everyone turn and point and say, ?You, you, you,? like fans do when a player commits a foul or commits a turnover on the basketball court.

I understand the need for policing the behavior of students in what is supposed to be an educational environment at athletic events. It would be better if students policed themselves.

However, having witnessed plenty situations in which so-called mature adults crossed the line with unsportsmanlike behavior, it comes as no surprise that students are learning to do the same.

Hillsboro resident Joe Klein?sasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. He can be reached at Joe.Klein?sasser@wichita.edu.

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