12/14/11 — Stevens: 'It's just a game' mentality getting lost in sports these days

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Stevens: 'It's just a game' mentality getting lost in sports these days

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 14, 2011 1:48 PM

It's a phrase most of us have heard or uttered at some point, perhaps used in an attempt to console a child whose team had just lost a close game.

Or maybe it was after watching our favorite team fall short against a bitter rival.

Whatever the situation, nearly all of us have said: "it's just a game."

At some point, our society has become disconnected between simply using those words and allowing them to affect our behavior. The brawl that marred the end of last Saturday's Cincinnati-Xavier men's basketball game serves as a haunting reminder of how often we take sports far too seriously.

The Twitter trash talk between the Bearcats and Musketeers began weeks before the two bitter crosstown rivals took to the court. The result of a brawl that ensued in the final seconds on Saturday was a combined 30 games worth of suspensions among eight players. Prosecutors in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, are considering pressing charges.

Far more damaging to the eight suspended players, their teams, universities and families is the tarnish that will now follow these young men for engaging in a senseless act. Basketball and the responsibility to give a maximum effort associated with an athletic scholarship should both be taken seriously. However, it is equally important to remember where sports rank in terms of importance in the grand scheme of life.

Without fail, I witness fans at every basketball game I cover who have no concept of sports simply being a 'game.' These are the adults who are parents, business men and women and sadly, role models. Apparently, these same people find no problem with verbally berating an official for four quarters. Yet, we often wonder where teenagers learn to disrespect adults.

Officials are human just like me and you. And like me and you, officials make mistakes. Putting on a striped shirt and placing a whistle around their neck in no way makes officials immune to verbal abuse or fair game for us to vent our pent up frustration. When I see someone verbally harass a referee in public at a sporting event I can't help but wonder how they treat their family in the privacy of their own home.

Earlier this season, a fight broke out between two girls prior to a Southern Wayne-Goldsboro game in Dudley. I witnessed a freestyle dance battle break out in the stands last Friday night at Eastern Wayne. I don't condone either of these behaviors but I do question the message we are sending as adults when our children see us coming unglued in the stands over what we perceive as a missed call.

Perhaps it is the blaring rap music with lyrics so profane they would make a sailor blush that can be heard in nearly every gym in America that has fans on edge. Maybe it is the economy, trouble at work or stress related to Christmas. Whatever 'it' is has turned gyms into a giant fuse just waiting to be lit.

Take it from a sports a writer who covers hundreds of them every year. When the final whistle blows and the horn sounds, it's still just a game.