- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Here’s a word or two of unsolicited advice for those University of Maryland students who consider it proper or amusing to express their support of the Terrapins by profaning the opposition in word or deed:

Stop, already.

Or at least think about this: If you want to act like silly little kids, why not return to your elementary or middle schools and let your folks save all the money they’re spending on a college education.

Stick rags in your mouths, turn those obscene T-shirts inside out and reflect for just a moment on exactly who you’re embarrassing: the school and yourselves.

With the football and basketball campaigns long since put to bed, the subject of crowd behavior at Byrd Stadium and Comcast Center normally would be out of season. But this week, Maryland coaches and athletic officials met with students and alumni to discuss what can be done to improve a difficult situation before a Terps team next enters combat in one of the revenue sports.

Because of the smaller area involved, most of the problems concern men’s basketball. Attention has focused on last January’s game against archrival Duke, where a few students shouted obscenities at Blue Devils guard J.J. Redick. Because the game was televised and the chants were heard nationally, the damage to Maryland’s image seemed almost incalculable.

Football coach Ralph Friedgen summed up the problem neatly at this week’s meeting: “Do we want to be perceived as a university with class?”

Well, sort of, I guess.

All of us did stupid things in our past, whether we admit them or not. Saying, er, to heck with authority is part of being a young person, and when some of us were young it often helped bring about change. But there is a difference between rebelling because of a cause in which we really believe and rebelling for the sake of rebelling.

It’s cute, if somewhat old now, when Maryland fans bring newspapers to games and rattle them in pretended disinterest while opposing players are introduced.

It’s definitely uncute — in addition to being a rampant contradiction — when some of those fans publicly characterize those opponents with words ranging from four to 12 or so letters. In fact, it’s downright sickening.

After 30 or so years as an eyewitness, I’m fully aware how exciting an ACC basketball game can be. But the key word here is “game.”

Or maybe “perspective.”

It’s only a game, guys. No matter whether Maryland beats Duke by 30 points or the Blue Devils win on a controversial shot at the buzzer, I’ve still got to go to work the next day — and some of you still must be reasonably alert for that 8a.m. class.

All of us giggle about “student-athletes” who obviously are in college — qualified or otherwise — just to play sports. But are they and theirs any more hypocritical than those whose main collegiate interest is behaving brainlessly at sports events?

Again, it’s only a game.

Actually, this matter of perspective applies to all games that people play. Take the issue of Joe Gibbs returning to the Redskins — surely nothing else of a sporting nature in these parts could be more exciting. Or the question of whether the Washington area deserves major league baseball — surely it does.

But consider this, too: If Gibbs should win his fourth Super Bowl next winter or Bud Selig and his minions should deign to put the Expos in RFK Stadium next spring, would it drastically change your life?

Of course not, although that life momentarily might be more enjoyable. And that’s what sports fandom should be: opportunities to put a little fun in our lives (apologies to Arthur Murray) and nothing more.

It is wrong to take sports too seriously — that’s for people who earn a living doing so, such as Friedgen and Gary Williams at Maryland, Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and all their fevered brethren. For the rest of us, sports serves its purpose as sheer escapism.

That’s a lesson some students at Maryland, and many other schools around the country, obviously have not learned. Mike Cawdery, a graduate student in education policy, showed up at this week’s meeting as living proof of that; he wore a T-shirt bearing the words “speech codes are bull” and reportedly told The Washington Post, “This is America. We say what we want.”

Which can be translated as “anyone has an inalienable right to make a fool of himself.”

I don’t know the best way to effect better crowd control, but I’d like to think one answer might lie in educating potential culprits that offensive behavior hurts all of us, especially the perpetrator. Acting like a pony’s posterior simply reiterates that a student isn’t ready for what passes as the real world.

After all — and this cannot be said too often — it’s only a game.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide