May the best man win?

In tennis, the victor jumps over the net to thank his competitor for a good game.

At Bulldog Stadium, the fans shout obscenities at the visiting team.

The three hours I spent Saturday selling game programs at the stadium’s main gate gave me ample time to observe the ardent supporters of the “Pride of the Valley.” I was there when the band marched across the parking lot, blasting the fight song. The fans’ cheers almost matched the band’s volume.

The cheers turned instantaneously into boos when San Jose took the field. Instead of a marching band, the Spartans were accompanied by shaking fists and words that newspapers don’t take kindly to printing.

A badly punctuated sign in the student-athlete’s gym reads, “Bulldog born, Bulldog bred, gonna be a Bulldog ‘til the day I’m dead!” As someone who has lived all her life in the Central Valley, I identify with that sentiment very strongly.

But if I hadn’t been hoarse from hawking programs, I would have shouted, “Good luck, Spartans!” at the top of my lungs, just to show the San Jose moms and dads that someone in Fresno knows what good sportsmanship is.

There’s another statement I identify even more strongly with: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Every time a San Jose fan bought a program from me, I smiled, wished his team luck and told him to enjoy the game.

It’s more than a matter of sportsmanship. It’s leading by example. It’s showing other people what being a Bulldog is all about.

Thanks to you, there are little kids who now think it’s OK to yell at people who have points of view different from their own.

Those of you who are young enough have ingrained the stereotype of the rude, rowdy college student in the minds of the grandparents and Bulldog Foundation members who saw you.

And the image of Fresno State that San Jose took away with them is not one I am proud to have associated with my school.

Curiosity about this kind of behavior drew me to Google. A search for “college football fans courtesy” brought this result up on the first page.

And after that kind of behavior becomes acceptable, how long will it be before this kind of behavior breaks out?

There’s nothing wrong with pride in your team, but it doesn’t have to preclude common courtesy. Sometimes, that pride demands your best behavior.

Previous Story

Fun and Games - 10/22/07

Next Story

The One-Finger Salute