This week I was surprised when I read about a friendly soccer game that was canceled after spectators got out of hand.
An Italian exhibition game halted after both teams walked off the field because of racist chants from the crowd on Thursday.
After being berated with a constant stream bigotry from a nasty crowd, AC Milan forward Kevin-Prince Boateng picked up the ball, kicked it into the crowd and walked off the field. He was followed by members of both teams, and after 26 minutes of play the game was canceled.
The BBC reported that there had been appeals for the abuse to stop from the public address announcer, but it wasn’t effective.
After I read the report, I thought about all the games I’d attended where I’d heard a few choice words hurled at players and coaches, and it occurred to me that the behavior is more common than I’d like to think.
The unsettling part about the game cancellation was that it was a friendly exhibition game with no competitive value to any team.
There’s always been a gray area surrounding spectator participation, but sometimes we forget about how far the negativity can go.
Everybody knows a few classic chants to get under the other team’s skin, but some people take it way too far.
It’s not usually bad enough to stop a game, but I often catch a stray remark every few weeks that is way out of line.
These comments are disrespectful to the players, refs and coaches that are taking time out of their week to contribute to a sport they love. And unruly shouts and chants serve no purpose other than to discourage people from coming back to the game.
It comes down to personal integrity and the respect you carry for your community and players, and its up to the crowds to enforce the rules, not the officials.
But luckily, antagonistic comments are by far in the minority, and for every negative remark there’s usually ten more encouraging players and their teams.
Often as soon as I hear a fan harassing a player, I look over and see the surrounding crowd rebuking their friends and reminding them about the positive athletic nature of the game.
When that happens, it reminds us of another important role of sports: to learn and grow.
Its everyone’s responsibility to keep it positive, and to make sure your friends and family are doing the same.