You may think this is an odd time of year to write about sportsmanship, but I have just returned from The Rose Bowl, and people’s conduct in a highly charged arena is very much on my mind.
It really began at the Rose Bowl Parade—quite early in the very cold morning– when our group from Fort Worth, in a sea of TCU purple, was already seated in the bleachers waiting for the parade to begin. A group came in on the seats behind us wearing their Wisconsin red. A man took one look at us and started chanting, “Badgers, Badgers.” And, it was not friendly! Now, we knew who they were rooting for. Red is a most vivid color, and they all wore it. Why start out with an antagonistic comment, rather than make a new acquaintance? Or simply say nothing and enjoy the ecumenical parade?
Later, our group walked over a mile to get to the actual Rose Bowl field. On the way, a Wisconsin fan stepped out of her group to tell my friend, “TCU sucks!” Other friends of mine reported that were accosted with the “F” word hurled at them as they walked over to their side of the field. Lest people think I am not objective, let me tell you that I personally did not attend TCU. We were there with good friends and to enjoy the festivities. There was, in fact, a TCU fan behind me at the game that enjoyed using the “F” word occasionally, though not hurled at anyone in particular. Given the emotion of the game, I might have been a little more forgiving, except for the fact that there were two very young fans sitting next to him. I do not know if they were his children or not, but he was certainly not setting a “fan-tastic” example.
After the game, I found it appalling that the Wisconsin team did not come on the field and shake hands with the TCU team. Perhaps the coach made them leave. Perhaps they were embarrassed to have been beaten by “the little sisters of the poor.” For whatever reason, they left. I could not help but notice that the Oregon team shook hands with, and in some cases embraced, the Auburn team at the championship game one week later.
Then, there was the Wisconsin band. They were exceptional and excellent in every way—except for their post game behavior. As a former majorette, let me assure you that there is such a thing as band etiquette. You do not start playing when another band is playing. I think it was fine that the Wisconsin band went on the field to play their fight song and school song. However, they did not stop there. They continued on and on. Finally, the TCU band had no choice but to begin their songs while the Wisconsin band blared away. After all, TCU did win the game. They deserved the final note!
This is not an all out attack on Wisconsin. Not more than a month ago, I traveled to Wisconsin for another event, and I found the people there to be friendly and helpful. I also attended a game with some great friends (they sent us a congratulatory note for the Horned Frogs victory) at Lambeau Field and watched the Packers beat the 49ers. Maybe the crowd was mostly a green sea of Packer fans, but there were 49er fans around us, and they were not treated rudely.
Sports and alcohol—and there was plenty of it—often do not mix. Perhaps that is one culprit. But at the end of the game—and it IS a game—can we not congratulate one another and go home friends? Or, at least go home respecting ourselves and be deserving of that respect. As parents, we especially need to set early examples for our children to emulate, and hope they pass it on. As for the coaches, it seems to me that they are paid well enough that they might incorporate some gentlemanly behavior into their training schedules. If they demand it, it will happen. After all, practice makes perfect!
I would like to end with a congratulatory note to Coach Patterson and his Horned Frogs. Not only did they win the football game, but they won with class. Coach Patterson’s actions, his speech after the game, and the “thank you” ads that were put in the Los Angeles papers speak volumes about the kind of man he is, and the kind of code he expects from his players.
If you have any thoughts on this essay, let me hear from you.