The Georgia High School State Football Playoffs just concluded, as did an experiment I conducted for the duration of the season.
My dad and I went to a game every Friday night somewhere in the local area, and we always sat on the Visitor’s side. Before the game, we would sit and talk to fans and integrate ourselves in with them. I would talk about my time covering Georgia Southern Athletics, and as a GHSA football and baseball official, and they would talk about how good their team was (even though they were usually subpar). Everyone was super friendly, or so it seemed.
Then it was kick-off, and everything changed. The gentleman I had just made “friends” with began yelling about a non-existent penalty. He shouted every name in the book at the official. Names that I had been called many times during my time as an official, most of which I cannot share due to the vulgarity. This only continued. Then it turned to the players. Not only were the fans turning on the officials, but they began to shout obscenities at the other team. After a hard (legal) hit, chants of “thug,” or “dirty player” sung out of the stands.
Now this is not an excuse for players by any means, and I am well aware that there are some players at every age that behave badly. But we as fans can help change the culture of these games. As I said earlier, I officiate baseball. I do this not only at the high school level, but at the recreation level sometimes kids as young as 7 years old. I always tell coaches and captains to make sure they root for their team, and not against the other team. You would be amazed at the things I hear parents of 7-year-old kids yelling at the opposing team. It’s time for parents to look at themselves in the mirror and ask: What am I doing?
A few things to take away from this: 1) There is no one handing out a scholarship at the end of an 8 year old's baseball game, 2) There are no college scouts in attendance either, 3) I promise the official does not care who wins, and 4) There is nothing wrong with celebrating a win, but there is also nothing wrong with celebrating a kid's hard work on the field regardless of result.