Generally speaking, having a loud student section is a positive for any college sports team. While they may not play, the noise and energy fans create can have a huge effect on a playing field. For example, Texas A&M’s football team has become nearly unbeatable at home, partially due to their rampant fan base, commonly referred to as “The 12th Man.”
Illinois State’s own fans have seemed to give the Redbirds an edge as well. After all, our football team is currently undefeated at home. While our student section may not be as big as others, there are definitely some passionate fans that create a lot of great energy in Hancock Stadium.
Although most ISU fans are respectful and encouraging of their team, lately I have been noticing some disturbing behaviors at some of our home games. It seems that during the second half, when ISU has a fairly strong lead, some student fans begin to get incredibly rude and obnoxious towards the opposing team. It is a trend that seems to be getting worse and really needs to stop.
Part of the reason this seems to occur now, or at least more than it did last year, is that the student section is directly behind the opposing team. This has essentially become a recipe for disaster. Some students have begun offensive chants aimed at players from opposing teams, most of which are obscene and over the top. For example, at the Abilene Christian game, students were calling a specific player “Needle Dick” while simultaneously looking up other player’s first names on the Internet so they would be easier to insult. One student even tried to instigate a fight with a player. At last weekend’s Indiana State game, the taunting got so bad that an affiliate of Indiana’s athletics department scolded the student section fans.
This type of behavior is unnecessary and unacceptable for a variety of reasons. Student sections should be more focused on cheering on their own team rather than insulting the opponent. During the Indiana State game, there were numerous occasions where ISU was making great plays that were going unnoticed because students were so focused on berating the other team. It was ridiculous, and the lack of attention toward our own team, in my opinion, was insulting to them as well.
What bothered me even more, though, was how students were insulting players right in front of their families. While it is likely that some of these students didn’t realize that player’s families were so close to them, that doesn’t excuse why they shouldn’t have been aware of the possibility in the first place. Losing is bad enough, but it’s hard to imagine having an entire student section single a player out right in front of his family. Likewise, it must be equally hard for the families to watch their loved ones being targeted by such obscene insults. Nobody should have to go through that, and it’s really disappointing that some students here at ISU are causing this.
I do realize that a little jeering towards opposing teams is normal, and that athletes will have to deal with it their entire lives. However, when insults are so obscene that people on the sideline feel the need to talk to our student section, clearly it is out of hand. Creating such a negative environment takes the fun out of the game for most people, as well as defeats the purpose of having a cheering section in the first place.
Most of these players and their fans only visit ISU once a year, and it is to attend these games. To insult them the entire time creates a distasteful image for the entire school. These games are a chance for fans to represent ISU and to reflect the character of the school. We don’t want to be remembered as the classless school that instead of cheering on its own team was busy taunting the opponents. Players of any sports team, including ISU, are expected to honor good sportsmanship. As fans, we need to as well.
Nick Ulferts is a junior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to email@example.com.