THE PILOT EDITORIAL - Does sport and sportsmanship mix?

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Schools may have a point of teaching kids how to play football and basketball.

Sometimes they may spend so much emphasis on playing good sports that there's none left over for teaching how to BE good sports.

It was a little embarrassing for BVU last weekend, as they played a profane song at halftime to a football stadium filled with children. A number of parents commented on it. The home game before that featured a big banner saying something like, "If you can't go to college, go to Coe."

We don't mean to pick on the college level or football, though. Over the years, we've seen Iowa high school basketball games result in brawls (fans, not players), and in one case, condoms thrown onto the floor with the wishes that the opposing player's parents had used them. Even Bobby Knight never thought of that.

The high school athletic system took to rating fans a few years ago and publicizing the results, as a little reminder to schools to show some class. For the most part, the schools in this area and their fans have done very well. Good coaches have a lot to do with it.

St. Mary's has perhaps raised the bar to a new level. They have mailed out a required "sports etiquette"

policy to all of their families and supporters this past week.

Catholic schools have never been shy about cracking knuckles over behavior, and as much as we chuckle over the idea of "sports etiquette" (visualize here a hulking, sweaty player extending a dainty pinky while sipping a cup of tea), we are impressed with the initiative.

In part, St. Mary's is asking every fan to stand still and sing the National Anthem. To clap for the other team's introduction, too. To shut up during free throws so both teams get a fair shot. To stay in their seat and not run back and forth to the darned concession stand every five minutes. To not let your kids run around loose and bug people. To not trash talk or try to distract players. To treat the opposition and officials as their "guests."

The coach will simply be instructed to be the kind of person he or she wants their athletes to be. He or she will act as a teacher and treat the gym as a classroom.

The official will be expected to treat players and coaches with courtesy, and demand the same in return. He or she will be fair, and St. Mary's doesn't want to accept any "make-up calls" in their favor for any mistakes in previous calls. How many big-time coaches could say that?

The players will be required to respect officials' calls without whining, maintain self-control, and this is the one we love: "win without boasting, lose without excuses, and never quit."

If you had to describe everything that's good about high school sports competition in Iowa, could you do any better than those nine words?

As old-fashioned as it sounds, we bet that all who have ever played sports, a year ago or half a century ago, can remember the fields and gyms they visited

that had class, and even more so those that had

goons. It colors how their school is seen by others across the state, and even how whole communities

are perceived.

We don't need ratings from state athletic association officials to tell us how to act. We applaud all the coaches, booster clubs, cheerleaders, players and fans who make going to the game something to cheer about.