The Right to Remain Silent
By: Les Barnhart 
Posted: 2004-11-25
Category: Washington Redskins News
In light of the recent on (and off) field altercations the subject of fans interaction with players has come under the microscope but perhaps at this point, it is like the farmer who shuts the barn door after the horse gets out. The sports world has grown from a subculture to a culture all of its own. With the help of the likes of ESPN and the ever growing coverage of sports of every kind, it is a great time to be a sports fan.

The majority of sports fans will watch far more sporting events on television than they will in person. There are several factors for this, with the cost of attending major sports being near the top of the list. Another factor is that in the confines of your own home (or bar) you have the advantage of instant replay, no lines in the bathroom, and no worries about the weather and no need to fight traffic before or after the game. Add to that list that at home you don't need to worry about being involved in a beat down with a player or another fan. You also don't need to subject yourself or family to those around you at the game who feel the need to shout insults, swears, racial slurs and personal attacks at a player that is drawing that abuse only because of the team he plays for or simply because he is playing the game.

Very few people can honestly say that they have attended more than a few events at any level where they haven't heard a fan or fans verbally attack a player during the game. While fans have heckled players for as long as sports have been played, there has always been a level of gamesmanship that was expected from the fans as well as the player. That aspect of sports is a game within a game. I have been able see this relationship from both on the field as well as from the stands. I have heard boos and less than flattering comments directed at me and I have heard the cheers and adoration. As easy as it was to soak in the cheers it was equally difficult to hear the jeering but as an athlete, it is all part of the game. As a fan of the many sports that I follow, I have something that is lacking in a great number of my fellow fans. That is respect. Respect for the players that play in their sport at a level that so many of us only dream about. I also have respect for the game. This respect comes from not only having been an athlete but also from having a love for the game, whatever it may be. While it may be strange to some, I hold sports very close. They hold a place in my life much like a family member would. So, despite knowing that many others don't have the same view of sports, it bothers me to see both the fans and the players disrespect a game that in the grand scheme of things, they comprise such a small part.

Many fans feel that they have the right to shout, scream, ridicule, belittle or denigrate the athletes simply because by their paying for the ticket to the game, they have paid the players salary. That simply is not a fair statement. If it were true, then why not call out the beer vendor or the guy selling the foam fingers that just took $18 off of you? That money goes to pay the players salaries as well doesn't it? Or better yet, see what happens when you go into a public office and call out a worker of your choice because "your tax money pays their salary". Again, same principle, right? Seems pretty silly to that. As silly as it to adhere to the belief that buying a ticket to a game entitles you to act in such a manner that would warrant criminal charges being filed if you were to say them outside of the sports arena.

Buying a ticket entitles you to watch the game and root for the team of the ticket holder's choice. It entitles someone to take their kids to a game and not have to worry about their getting through the game safely or having to listen to language that isn't fit for public. It entitles you to cheer loudly for your team or to boo and hiss the opposition in a way that wouldn't garner an "R" or in some cases, an 'X" rating. If being in the stands and watching a game isn't justification enough for the price of the ticket that you paid, don't buy it. Don't feed into the thought process that the player's salaries are pushing up ticket prices and thus taking many of out of the stands. Keep you money in your pocket and if you want to see sports being played without the cloud of out of control salaries having over the field, take in a high school game. You will spend far less money and what you do spend will go to a good place.

Whatever sport you follow and attend, remember that every ticket gives its holder a right to remain silent, enjoy the game and allow others to do the same. Cheer your head off, clap until your hands go numb and boo if you must (especially if you are at a Cowboys game) but keep it clean, while many of us are still kids at heart, some of us have our kids with us.

-Wingman
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