University City (U. City) and Normandy are neighboring school districts in St. Louis County. As with many neighboring school districts across the country, an athletic rivalry has developed between the high schools. That’s usually no big deal. Go to the game wearing your school’s colors, have some nachos and go home a little hoarse from all the cheering.
This is where most schools draw the line. U. City and Normandy do not. There have been several altercations between the two schools during basketball games in recent years. During the 2011-12 season, there was an on-court fight. Another incident happened earlier this season when Normandy students hurled bricks at the U. City team bus with students on-board.
Both schools were on another collision course as the state basketball playoffs began this week. Normandy is a top seed and received a first round bye. If U. City had won its opening round game, round two would have featured U. City and Normandy.
Thankfully, Mary Institute & Country Day School (MICDS) had other plans. MICDS defeated U. City in the first round and saved the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) from enacting an embarrassing, but necessary plan.
Had U. City won, no fans would have been allowed to attend the next game against Normandy. MSHSAA officials determined the vitriol and potential for violence was too great to allow anyone to attend a U. City-Normandy matchup other than the players’ parents. You read that right. A high school playoff game would have been contested without brothers, sisters, grandparents, or even a student section.
Think about how that might feel for the kids. You’re in the state basketball playoffs and no one can come to your game except your mom and dad. Why? Because no one else knows how to act. U. City’s athletic director told a local TV station that he hoped to have adequate security at future games to prevent incidents between the schools. MSHSAA is also looking into changing its athletic conferences so the schools never have to play each other – in anything – ever again.
The U. City and Normandy communities should be ashamed of themselves. This is not just an administrative issue. Parents, coaches, teachers, other community leaders and even the students need to do some serious soul searching. What kind of people are we? How are our actions affecting what the region thinks of us?
On Tuesday, both school districts released a joint statement addressing the issue of fan behavior and the frayed relationship between their high schools. It reads:
I took the liberty of highlighting “sportsmanship-like behavior” because there is no such thing. Either you exhibit good sportsmanship or you don’t. Showing “sportsmanship-like behavior” is the equivalent of buying your fiancée an engagement ring made of glass. It doesn’t shine or sparkle. There’s only an annoying, blinding glare. Most of all, everyone knows it’s cheap and meaningless – including you.
Sportsmanship is respect for the game, its players, officials and fans. This means U. City fans must respect Normandy fans and vice versa. Everyone who cheers for these schools must look beyond the scoreboard and the rivalry. No more fights. No more bricks. Wear your school’s colors proudly, have some nachos and go home.
And if you can’t, just stay home then. As much as it would hurt the athletes’ feelings to not have their fans at the game, bricks and fists still hurt more.