Guest Column: It’s just a game

Richard Mulhall

This past Saturday the Akron Beacon Journal sent me to Cuyahoga Falls High School to cover the girl’s basketball Division III Cuyahoga Falls Regional Final between Gilmour Academy and Chippewa High School.

Though Gilmour Academy ended up winning, 62-52, and advanced to the state semifinal round, the game’s end result was not what struck everyone’s attention.

While Chippewa and Gilmour Academy fought a highly intense, heated rivalry game with a Division III state semifinal birth at stake, indignant parents and fans bickered back and forth in the stands.

Since this was a rivalry game – and Cuyahoga Falls High School officials knew tensions would be high and animosity among them would reach its pique – they put up signs instructing Chippewa fans to sit on one side of the court and Gilmour Academy fans to sit on the other side of the court. To avoid any sort of confrontation, officials attempted to separate the opposing schools.

It didn’t work. Gilmour fans crossed the line and broke the divide between the two schools’ fans, and obviously, trouble ensued.

At one point, a Gilmour fan sitting on Chippewa’s side of the court was asked to leave the gym after a brief but scene-causing altercation with a few Chippewa fans. The game was stopped as police escorted the fan out of the gym.

Both sides continued exchanging unpleasantries throughout the game and the award ceremony afterward was sped up and cut short due to the lingering hostility between both schools. By that point, Cuyahoga Falls High School officials just wanted to get everyone out of the gym for fear of a fight breaking out between parents and fans. Luckily, no one was duking it out in the parking lot by the time everyone cleared the court.

Both sides could have handled themselves with a lot more class than they did. One of the Gilmour fans was yelling at Chippewa head coach Denny Schrock and called him “classless.” Schrock yelled back, and Cuyahoga Falls High School officials were forced to separate the two schools in fear of a riot.

A riot. At a freaking girl’s basketball game. How pathetic is that?

I think what saddens and sickens me the most, though, is how much the fans took away from the game. Reporters from other newspapers and news outlets were asking the two coaches more about the crowd than the game. The fact that these two schools demonstrated such a proclivity for provoking vulgar, profanity-laced exchanges and violence shows a complete lack of self-control and maturity by both sides.

All anyone could talk about was the conflict between the parents and fans. They stole the show and spotlight from these high school girls who were just trying to play the game.

The “adult’s’” childish antics overshadowed a hard-fought high school game and the students’ performances. When the game was over, no one was talking about Gilmour Academy’s accomplishment. No one was talking about Gilmour senior Marisa Finazzo’s game-high 23 points. No one was talking about Chippewa celebrating the bitter end to a successful season. No one seemed to cared much about what all these young ladies accomplished.

Come on. Grow up and show some respect. As a Cleveland sports fan, I understand passions take hold of us when we’re in the heat of the moment of an intense game, especially a rivalry game. However, it comes to a point when you have to show some class and keep your mouth shut.

We take our sports way too seriously. We’re all guilty of it. I know I am. But sometimes we just have to take a step back in certain situations and just be human beings rather than just sports fans. When you yell at a girl’s basketball player from the stands, that someone’s daughter. When you yell at an opposing high school football player from the bleachers, that’s someone’s son. These are just 14, 15, 16, 17-year-old kids we’re talking about here.

At the end of the day – and this goes for all sports fans out there, not just high school sports spectators – it’s just a game. When the game is over, you still have to get up in the morning the next day, go to work, go to school and move on with your life. You can rant and rave all you want, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game. It’s supposed to be fun. There’s no need to suck all the fun out of something with your anger or frustration.

Richard Mulhall is a sports columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].