Friday, 07 October 2016 11:02

Lessons From the Ryder Cup

The rowdy crowds drew more attention than usual this past week, ultimately prompting the PGA of America to address the situation by issuing a public plea for respect. There are certain accepted behaviors in all social situations that you need to learn. Some sports require silence during specific times during the game or match. Respect this by honoring the rules and signals from the officials. Golf tournaments and tennis matches require concentration, and a sudden sharp sound can ruin a good play. Have you ever been to a game where people yelled obscenities at the players or referees? Have you ever seen parents belittle other people’s children for making a bad play? Letting negative emotions and outbursts steal everyone else’s enjoyment can get these people kicked out of the game ... or worse, cause a fight in the bleachers. Good sportsmanship doesn’t end at the edge of the field or court. It continues into the bleachers filled with spectators who are most likely cheering for a favorite team or player. Whether you’re there to watch a professional team or your child’s Little League game following proper etiquette will make the experience much more enjoyable for everyone there. This year’s Ryder Cup PGA challenge between the USA and the European professional golfers was practically an embarrassment of disrespect by the fans for the Europeans. It was deplorable. Every time there was a missed putt, or misfired shot by our overseas rivals, certain groups of fans cheered, and in many cases screamed with delight. Many of us know in the world of golf that jeering the opponent is considered inappropriate behavior. The cringe-worthy occurrences were too many and too often. The game of golf represents an expected underlying requirement of respect for your opponent. I coached tennis for over 20 years, and tennis is also a sport that demands proper etiquette. I have witnessed situations where some parents and athletes demonstrated disrespect for the opposition. If someone hits the ball into the net, there is no cheering, you just don’t do that. When the ball has just been hit out of bounds, the opposing fans shouldn’t express their glee. The occasion of when a match ended on an errant shot is a time when the opposing fans could cheer for the winner. The public plays a pivotal role in a successful crowd management plan. Educate the patrons on the type of “behavior” that is expected and the consequences of not adhering to venue policy. Educating the fans will allow them to understand the key role they play and how their actions can impact their own safety and those of the participants. My good friend Richard Johns has founded and developed a program called “Act With Respect Always” and his mantra is just that. He has a great message that’s basically about bullying. Is there a difference between bulling and an unruly crowd? Realistically, there’s a fine line, but the answer is, NO! Professional athletes are not immune as victims of disrespect. I think throughout the history of professional athletics, dating way back to the early years of baseball, athletes were sworn at, bottles were thrown at them, and some were treated as low lifes because of their race; there was much more. There’s a certain camouflage by being in a crowd, people do things in a group they most likely wouldn’t do as an individual. Like throwing objects at the participants, or saying/yelling obscenities and then hiding through the blending in to the shadows of the group. One of the fuses that fosters disrespect at a professional sporting event is the consumption of alcohol, mainly it’s overconsumption. Is the solution for the prevention of the rowdy crowd behavior the prohibition of the sale of beer, and the like? That might be the answer. I see a concerning growth of disorderly, rambunctious, and rude practices in the world of athletics, but more than not, in our society, just look at the ugly political scene of the coming elections. This is worrisome, and you see more of it when there is a large gathering of people who have a common support and cause for a favorite team. As I said previously, there is the camouflage of the crowd that makes people act out of character and become unruly, and therefore nothing is sacred, anything or anyone can be a target. My feeling is that there needs to be more education on behavior and respect for others when attending a sporting event, whether it’s coming from the kitchen table of home or in the classroom of school. There needs to be an understanding that all of the participants who represent a team, on all levels, are people and hurtful actions and statements have no place in a spectator’s role. The primary reason a fan goes to a game is to support their favorite team and players, not to disrespect the opponents. What I feel evolves from this, and maybe one of the biggest issues, is that the adults’ display of sportsmanship should be a role model for future generations of fans. Are these unruly adult fans failing young people with their display of disrespect of others? Do I need to answer that?
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