From Feb. 22 to March 1, the White Plains venue played host to the Section I championships, an annual tradition that is inarguably the pinnacle of the local basketball season.
While championship week might feature titillating matchups between the best teams in the area, this year it also shed a spotlight on some of its worst fans. Although a few unfortunate incidents didn’t mar the entire week of basketball, they did serve as a reminder that, to some people, the action on the court is far less important than what goes on in the stands.
On Feb. 27, during an otherwise well-played AA semifinal between Mahopac and Mount Vernon, tensions in the crowd boiled over as Indians and Knights fans clashed after Mount Vernon’s 43-40 win. For now, details are scarce. Some are alleging Mount Vernon fans became aggressive following their team’s hard-fought win. Others claim that Mahopac fans hurled racial insults at Mount Vernon’s fans while brandishing a confederate flag, thus instigating the fight.
As of now, no charges have been filed, but the incident still has Internet message boards aflame as anonymous posters assign blame to one party or the other.
This wasn’t the only highly publicized incident involving fans last week.
During a Class A semifinal game between Tappan Zee and Walter Panas on Feb. 26, Dutchmen athletic director Liam Frawley banished the entire Tappan Zee student section from the building after the students began using certain anatomical terms as they jeered the Panas players.
Now, I want to go on record saying I had no problem with Tappan Zee’s chants—in part because I have the sense of humor of a 12-year-old boy. Ultimately, the job of the student section is to rankle, irritate and disrupt opposing teams. But Frawley, in an attempt to diffuse any escalating antagonism between the two fan bases, felt it was the safest course of action to clear his students out of the gym.
I don’t blame him. Sitting among the spectators for a week, I witnessed some of the worst behavior I’ve seen—mostly from adults—in my years covering high school sports. From fans screaming hateful things at referees and opposing players to others voicing their disapproval with decisions made by their own team’s coaches, it seemed to me the people in the stands were taking each make or miss harder than the kids pouring their sweat out on the court.
This isn’t to say that there weren’t examples of good sportsmanship, like Eastchester fans giving senior Jack Daly a standing ovation as he left the floor for the last time in his high school career after fouling out in the fourth quarter of the Class A finals or the good-natured back-and-forth between Eastchester and Harrison’s student sections during the semifinal round. But there’s a big problem when fans not misbehaving is the exception, rather than the rule.
When our kids take the court, they are giving their all, doing their best to represent their school, their town and their community. The very least we can do as fans is try not to embarrass them.
Follow Mike on Twitter, @LiveMike_Sports