Every once in a while, I see some moron write something that inspires a scathing backlash essay. My friend sent me this link this morning from my hometown newspaper in Connecticut. It involves many things which I hold dear, UConn basketball, Gampel Pavilion, and swearing profusely.
Here is my response, which I just emailed to the writer:
To Mr. Mike DiMauro:
RE: UConn Students Cross Line With Crass Behavior
I'm a UConn alum now living in New York. I've been following Huskies basketball for over 16 years and have been reading your writing in The Day for just as long. During that time, I've noticed your writing style degrade into simple, easy topics which the common reader in CT can consume without having their senior-citizen-values threatened. The pinnacle of which is the article a friend sent me this morning about UConn fans cheering at a game at Gampel. The piece is so fraught with fallacies that I'm not sure where to begin. According to your article, you expected this kind of a response, so I felt it was imperative that I indulge you.
The basic premise of your article is that you wish UConn fans, and sports fans in general, would resist the urge to cheer for their team. Or at least, they should only cheer in the way that you find acceptable. As long as we keep everything PG, the world is a better place. I whole-heartedly disagree with that attitude.
Today's organized sports grew out of the bloodsports of history, from Roman gladiatorial games to medieval jousting and combat. Watching the death of a criminal by hanging or otherwise was a common activity up until the 20th century. We, as a culture, have grown away from such profane entertainments, but there still exists a need in the human psyche for such exploits. We are fascinated by the unhealthy contest, the bitter struggling of individuals against any and all opponents. Our current fixation on reality TV proves this.
What does this have to do with UConn basketball? The contest of the two teams on the court can become an orgiastic experience for the spectator. I've been there. When I was a student, I had season tickets to the student section and rarely missed a game. I would yell anything that came to mind, such as "Kick them in the face!" or "Punch them in the throat!" I would even swear and use the f-word, if you can imagine. All of this behavior would increase my emotional involvement with the game. When UConn won, I would feel ecstatic. If they lost, melancholic.
Too often, I see fans sitting throughout the game, especially at the HCC. They only stand for the ceremonial first field goal, and then thereafter are planning to leave the arena with 10 mins left in the second half. These are the fans who cover their ten-year-old's ears from hearing the word "crackhead," as if they expected the game to be a showing of Happy Feet. Is this the behavior that you are encouraging? Or are you saying that fans should be raucous, but not too raucous? That is a difficult line to draw.
Perhaps the not-so-random shouting of fans (Paul Harris was actually indicted for drug sales and 3rd-degree assault) is actually a plea for an organized student section. I look at the Oakland Zoo in Pittsburgh and I wonder why nothing like that has grown at the University of Connecticut, which arguably has a program more steeped in basketball tradition than Pitt. Instead of suggesting the administration publicly censure the student fans in the Daily Campus, which I'm not confident would have the effect you intend, you could use your statewide circulation to call for a more organized and efficient cheering section.
Your article gets even more specious when you recommend Jim Calhoun write an email discouraging the use of expletives. You've been to many more games than I have, with a much closer vantage point to Calhoun's coaching style. Have you, sir, never heard Calhoun himself utter the dreaded f-word on the court? I have. Many, many times. Yet, in your piece, you say that he should be an advocate for decorum at Gampel. Perhaps you should, with all of your experience, tell Calhoun how he should coach a basketball game. I would cherish listening to his response for years to come. I bet he would drop some pretty big f-bombs on you.
Mr. DiMauro, you already named yourself many of the terms I might have used to describe your attitude so I will spare you any further name-calling. I will merely say that you are wrong. The behavior you suggest should be eliminated from the game is precisely what draws people to an athletic contest. We are not passively watching a movie or TV. The cheering or jeering of a crowd can actually influence the outcome of a game. It is why playing games in MSG or Cameron Indoor Stadium is infinitely more intense than at, say, the Hartford Civic Center. Gampel is the only arena UConn should play its games at because the student section is indeed raucous, supportive, loyal and occasionally profane. And that behavior helps the team win games.
Or did you want the Huskies to lose?
Let's see what happens. Maybe I'll be published in The Day tomorrow, maybe I'll never get a response. But somehow I feel a little better for having wrote that.