Monday, February 14, 2011

What's the Point: The Line Between Passion and Bad Taste

We've all been there: A close game, a conference rival, emotions running high. You want to will your team to victory any way possible. Many times, the crowd is one of the deciding factors in a closely contested affair. But there are times when the crowd, or certain individuals in the crowd, get out of control, and cross the line from passion to bad taste. When this happens, it defeats the purpose of schools being in the national spotlight in the first place.

There were two examples of this on Saturday: Wisconsin fans spitting on Jared Sullinger before and after the game in Madison, and the Villanova student section chanting "F**k you Pitt" during a stretch in the second half of the Saturday showdown at the Pavilion. In both cases, these incidents got national exposure, with Jared Sullinger tweeting the world what happened and with the chanting from the student section being clear as day on ESPN.

The whole point of having a top-flight athletics program is to bring national exposure to the best that a school has to offer, in order to increase the national prominence of the school. What people see on ESPN or CBS forms the perception of the school in the minds of millions of people. This is part of the reason Jay Wright always looks so sharp, because to many people, he is the face of the school. But, when fans engage in bad behavior on the national stage, it wipes out all good publicity formerly generated by the school appearing in the game. Tasteless actions leave impressions that at least rival those generated by any good publicity for the school. In effect, actions by a few can wipe out the hard work and dedication by so many to get the school to this point.

An elite athletics program can take a school to places beyond the wildest dreams of any Dean or President. Every good program needs its fans, its sixth man, to urge the players on and show the nation the passion and school spirit they have. But, next time someone crosses that line, from passionate to tasteless, do not join in. It does more harm than good.

What's the Point is a weekly column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment

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