Stand Up And Cheer (whoops, Not You Hoops Fans)


December 07, 1990|By PAT O'MALLEY

Sportsmanship and crowd control are two items county administrators hope will be in vogue as much as the slam dunk this hoop season.

Now those added guaranteed attractions might cost you a little more but will sure be worth it. Let me elucidate, high school fans.

For those of you who already have been to your first county high school hoop game and picked up a program with rosters, you may have noticed some extra literature on "Sportsmanship, Our No. 1 Priority" plus a page on conduct at athletic events.

At his winter season briefing on a wide range of topics with the media yesterday at the Board of Education in Annapolis, county coordinator of physical education Paul Rusko served notice that the county wants to get the attention of its fans, parents, coaches and players regarding positive conduct.

"We are not doing this to insult our fans, but rather to get their attention to be conscious of these things," said Rusko. "Yes, it's in line with the national federation's emphasis on sportsmanship this year, and we are fortunate that we have not had some of the problems others have had around the country in high school sports.

"Overall our fans have been good, but there are some things we can do better and that's what we aim to do."

The page on "Sportsmanship, Our #1 Priority" recounts the national high school federation's policy: "The ideals of good sportsmanship, ethical behavior and integrity permeate our culture. The values of good citizenship and high behavioral standards apply equally to all activity disciplines.

"In perception and practice, good sportsmanship shall be defined as those qualities of behavior which are characterized by generosity and genuine concern for others."

As for the Code of Conduct, the most important point of 11 listed that the county wants to drive home is that all fans must be seated.

"We've been somewhat lax on that in some gyms while in others, if you have noticed, you see everybody sitting down and no standing (behind the hoops)," said Rusko. "Maybe we should have done this a long time ago, but we intend to enforce it from now on.

"All schools will be posting signs in their gyms saying 'all fans must be seated' and it will be announced over the PA system, too."

Apparently such crowd control has not yet begun at Annapolis High, where I watched the Meade-Annapolis boys basketball game Wednesday night.

Fans were four and five rows deep out on the floor behind the baskets and the width of the arena.

There were no problems, but had it been a close game, certainly there could have been. Annapolis came out in the second half and put away the Mustangs early in the third period and coasted to a 95-59 win.

With the outcome obvious, most of the second half featured fans wandering across the game floor to one end of the gym or another, children playing on the floor where the players were speeding by and the areas behind the baskets resembled big parties with everybody standing around.

Many of the fans under the hoops were within arm's reach of the players and refs. In fact, a few times the refs had to dance around fans and children. Here again, no problems because it was a good crowd as most are at Annapolis and around the county, but with such freedom of position there could be panic potential.

In such situations where the fans are practically on the floor instead of in their seats, a spark could create a full-scale riot. Certainly none of us want that.

"No, we don't. These games are not war, and we want the fans to cooperate to see that it doesn't get to that," said Rusko.

The Code of Conduct handout emphasizes that "we are only opponents -- not enemies."

Rusko, his fellow coordinator of physical education Jean Boyd and other county and state administrators want to discourage the nasty little things such as profanity and general harassment that could incite student-athletes or coaches.

They are asking the fans to "cheer loudly and freely, but in a positive manner" and remind everyone that "it is inappropriate to boo, harass, or use acts or words to incite the student athletes or coaches involved in competition."

Those who do not cooperate with the Code of Conduct could be removed and permanently barred from county public schools' athletic events.

But how do you enforce such standards?

"Administrators have always helped with crowd control and the county police are always on hand, and we may eventually go to a possible stipend for people to be game-control people," said Rusko.

Rusko said those people would be security types whose specific attire would reveal their purpose. That, of course, would be an added expense, and further hints that county fans can get ready for ticket increases.

Not all athletic events require an admission fee. The revenue makers are football, basketball and wrestling for the most part.

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