Letter to the Editor

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

To the editors:

A few weeks ago I took my son Sam to play a basketball game with his 3rd and 4th grade recreational league in Belchertown. The atmosphere was very positive, with parents cheering for their own children and for their friends’ children on the opposing team. The gym at Chestnut Hill Community School displays the “Peace Builders” pledge and slogans, reminders of what bullying looks like and how to prevent it.  From what I heard and saw during that game, from the “nice shot”s to the high fives, the Peace Builders program was fully in play.

A couple hours later, I was sitting between Sam and my father at the Mullins Center, cheering as the University of Massachusetts Minutemen took to the court to play Miami University. We were on our feet greeting the home team and high fiving each other. Then the RedHawks starting lineup was announced, a routine I’m used to, as a Minutemen fan of 25 years. We typically sit down, pass around the popcorn and tune out the visitors line up.

But last weekend, it was a little different. As the RedHawks took the floor, each player was greeted with “you suck” in addition to the typical boos. I heard this chant at the St. Joe’s game the other night; what was different is that I didn’t have my nine hear old son sitting there, asking me “why is that okay, Mom?”

I told Sam that sporting events, especially at the college and pro levels, bring out a lot of passion and excitement and that part of being a dedicated fan is giving the opposing team a hard time. I wanted to assure him that it wasn’t just at UMass, and that this was the “norm,” even if it wasn’t right, and that the same thing probably happens to the Minutemen on the road.

If you haven’t been schooled by a nine year old lately on bullying, let me tell you a few things that my son got me thinking about: First, just because it’s tradition doesn’t make it okay. We don’t need to put other people down to feel better about ourselves. And finally, you never really know who your audience is exactly, so speak carefully.

All of the cells in my basketball-loving soul want to scream “it’s just a game!!,’ but the 100 percent of me that is a parent gets motivated to share this story with other fans and parents, because, according to my son, not saying anything could make me part of the problem.

Do I want the Mullins Center to feel like a 4th grade basketball league? Of course not. Will I stop yelling at the ref for calls I disagree with? Unlikely. I don’t expect college students cheering on their home team to suddenly act like they are watching golf.  If you’re part of the “YOU SUCK” chorus, just think about what you would say to the young kid who says the Minutemen don’t need you to put the other team down for them to be great.

Lisa Faulkingham Hunt