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The Emotions of Sports: The guards against gripes

Administrators and referees play an important role in keeping fan animosity in check

Posted: August 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 1, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Fans go to games because they enjoy it.

Athletes participate in sports because they enjoy it.

Coaches coach because they enjoy it.

When all these parties get together, emotions can build up in the heat of competition — and sometimes, it builds the wrong way.

“I think passion is a good thing,” says West Ranch High athletic director Dody Garcia. “Obviously, anger is not. I think when anyone gets angry, it’s a loss of self-control. I think passion is the opposite. It’s a control of your excitement for the game.”

Administrators are important parts of keeping anger out of athletic venues. Referees are also important, as they’re tasked with keeping control on the field of play.

Deron White, a Hart High graduate who currently referees in Pac-12 men’s basketball, knows all about that.

“The reality is, every call you make, you’re half right and half wrong,” White says. “We experience it on every play. You’re held to a higher standard and you can’t get distracted by that.”

White adds that fan anger is far more direct and prevalent in the college ranks, which could be due to the bigger crowds.

At the high school level, White says, it’s different.

“It’s a little more in check, because you have the administration and those types around,” he says.

Garcia and her fellow athletic directors try to get an early jump on curbing fan emotion. She says that parent meetings are held before the fall, winter and spring sports seasons to let people know what’s OK and what’s not OK when attending school sporting events.

“I think the most important thing is being proactive by communicating the rules to the fans,” Garcia says. “Just like the players and coaches have rules to follow, there’s a fan etiquette to follow. Our job is to educate the fans, kids and parents alike, about the rules of the game, what’s accepted and what’s not, and make sure we enforce that.”

Over the past couple of years, Garcia says she’s only dealt with a couple of fan incidents herself, and she doesn’t think there have been that many across the board.

White says he doesn’t see or remember too many instances of fan interference with games, although he does recall a game between Washington State and Oregon during the 2009-10 men’s college basketball season.

The Cougars hit a shot with two seconds left in the first overtime to go ahead, and their bench and some fans charged the court thinking they’d won. But because there were two seconds left, Washington State was assessed a technical foul, and Oregon tied the game with the free throws and went on to win in double overtime.

“Fan interaction definitely plays a role in the games and the emotions of the game,” White says. “But with things like the ‘12th man’ or the ‘sixth man’, how many teams have you seen where the fans believe they play that big a role for whatever school they’re supporting?”

Through it all, referees and administrators have to make sure they keep their cool while dealing with others who can’t.

“I think just trying to keep it in perspective is priority No. 1,” White says. “We know that fans are there to support their teams. They’re going to make comments or react simply because they want things to go a certain way, not because it’s right or wrong.”

But White and Garcia certainly enjoy the presence of fans at games. They both believe that the energy of the crowd is one of the best things about sports.

It’s just important to guard the fun of the many from the antics of a few.

“Let’s make sure we keep things in perspective,” Garcia says. “I think most people are very, very good about their behavior.”


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