By Scott Tibbs, January 31, 2008
There has been some concern about fans at Indiana University basketball games chanting obscenities at games. At a recent home loss, fans were chanting "bull****" and "f*** you ref" in response to what they considered bad calls by the officials. In response, the announcer warned IU fans that a technical foul could be called on the Hoosiers if the fans continued the disruptive behavior. No technical was ever called, and such technical fouls are rare.
This is the worst possible response to fan misbehavior. It would be better to say nothing at all than warn fans of consequences that never come. This makes the officials look weak and/or incompetent, and emboldens fans to engage in ever-increasing bad behavior. Any parent can tell you that warning a child to not do something and then failing to follow up when that child misbehaves only encourages further misbehavior. Parents undermine their own authority and children lose respect for them. It is no different with adults.
Unfortunately, "fans" have become a problem in sports at every level. We all have read stories of parents who become violent at their child's game, and Detroit Pistons "fans" are infamous for being little more than thugs. (See previous articles here, here, here and here.) Everyone remembers John Rocker's infamous tirade against "fans"/thugs in New York, but how many people recall that he was provoked by "fans"/thugs throwing batteries at him?
There is absolutely no excuse for such behavior. After all, it is just a game. In the big scheme of things, a loss for the IU men's basketball team means less than nothing. Exactly what do Indiana University "fans" hope to accomplish by acting in such a childish way? We're a culture that worships sports as a god, and we need to step back and gain some perspective. It is perfectly reasonable to express one's opinion, whether it be in response to a bad call or corruption by people in charge. Chanting obscenities is not reasonable, and acts of physical violence must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Why can't fans just boo a bad call?
So what should be done? The answer is obvious. The next time fans at an IU game start chanting obscenities, the referees should quickly call a technical foul on the Hoosiers without warning. After the technical is called, the fans will be informed that they are at fault and further misbehavior will result in more free throws for the visiting team. The next step, following up by calling more technical fouls, is critical. If the people chanting obscenities truly want their team to win, they will start behaving in an appropriate manner. As we have seen in so many areas of life, bad behavior will never stop unless there are consequences for that behavior.