We’ve all seen it. We’ve all heard it.
Heck, some of us might have even laughed at a particularly sharp barb or yelled a few of these ourselves.
Chants of “Scoreboard! Scoreboard!” when the score grows a bit lopsided. Or “Start the bus!” in the waning moments of a blowout.
They are the rooter section cheers that lift the home team and, increasingly it seems, take aim at the opposing team or school.
In local gyms, you might hear chants of “We get a free education!” directed at the Cardinal Newman crowd, promptly returned with “Your dad works for my dad!”
Good fun or low class? Part of the high school experience or something that has no place on campus?
A newly launched campaign pushes hard for the latter.
“Battle of the Fans,” modeled after a statewide program in Michigan, will include every school in both the North Bay and Sonoma County leagues and will reward the school with the most spirited student section during the course of the boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons. And by spirited, organizers mean civilized — fun and raucous, but civilized.
One school from each league will be rewarded with a cash and kudos prize at the end of the season based on a live visit as well as a student-produced video showcasing their cheer section.
It’s being overseen by school officials and run by a coordinator, but what is abundantly clear is that its success relies entirely on student buy-in.
The idea is this: Get students to focus not on belittling (or even berating) the opposing team and their fans, but on pumping up their own.
“What was happening at all schools was, it was making the sport of cheering against the other fan section,” said Montgomery principal Laurie Fong, who has spearheaded the program locally. “It was … who could smack down the other fan base.”
“It was a constant battle,” she said of monitoring rooting sections and quashing offensive chants before they were bellowed. “It was continuing and it wasn’t getting any better. … It’s good natured, but sometimes kids got a little testy.”
In addition to over-the-line jeering that has crossed the line, there have been some high-profile incidents in recent years of local fans run amok. Racial taunts. The man who threw a bag of ice at a player on the court. But those are no-brainers. That doesn’t belong in the bleachers or anywhere else. The “Battle of the Fans” is aimed more at the gray area — the fine line between school spirit and offensive behavior.
And backers are starting with basketball because it presents especially close proximity between fans and players, and fans and other fans.
“We do feel it’s the toughest one to handle because of the proximity, the intensity,” said Steve Arrow, the Montgomery boys’ junior varsity coach and the man picked to coordinate the program in its inaugural year. “You are throwing the ball in and there’s a guy six inches from you in the student section.”
But just what kind of behavior crosses the line? That can sometimes be a difficult thing to judge, some administrators said.
“I never take it too serious, but people come up to us and say ‘You were too loud’ or ‘You shouldn’t have said that,’ ” said Cardinal Newman’s athletic director Jerry Bonfigli. “It’s kind of what we are moving toward, so we just want to be loud and positive.”