Writer’s Block: Good Sportsmanship

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

The Friday Night Lights are upon us. All across the Rio Grande Valley, the skyline can be seen dotted with pockets of bright white glows emanating from powerful stadium lights. The piercing sound of whistles travels along the breeze while the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of bass drums resonates through the ground.

The cheers, chants and yells of the crowds can also be heard from a fair distance away each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as gridiron battles rage on. Being an avid and vocal fan is just as much a part of the game as the offense and defense, or the cheerleaders or the band marching at halftime. It’s an honored tradition to heckle —in a friendly manner — when you think a referee has blown a call. Even a little armchair quarterbacking from the stands isn’t such a bad thing. I, myself, may have made suggestions to pass versus throw, or to urge the defense to hold the line from time to time.

Football games are about more than just the back and forth chess match between two head coaches, two offenses and two defenses. Football games are about the entire experience, but one thing that can get lost in the fervor of the fans is remembering that these games of ours are played by children.

While coaches and referees are adults — paid professionals with years of experience working their craft — our players are students. By and large, they play for the love of the game. And if the sounds of a game can be heard clearly from several blocks away, you can be sure that criticisms and taunts can be heard with crystal clarity between the hash marks.

Our players are students in the classroom, but beyond that, they’re also still students on the field. All season long they are continually learning new schemes, new routes and new defenses. The fact that they’re still learning means they might make mistakes. Even if they don’t, a perfect play can still go awry from factors outside their control.

A wide receiver may find the perfect seam to run through, but the opposing team’s defense may have a safety who’s just that much faster and able to close the gap. Things happen. The thrill of a play breaking down, or alternately, suddenly succeeding in the face of imminent failure, is part of the excitement of the game.

One other part of the game that’s just as vital is the mental game. You can ask any head coach how important mental toughness is and they’ll tell you it ranks right up there at the top. What they won’t tell you is that we, the audience, are players in that part of the game. If we support our kids, it helps. If we don’t, it can show on the field.

So yes, cheer loudly when you’re elated by the game. Cheer loudly when you’re surprised with disappointment, too, but cheer respectfully. Our kids are still learning, and they can hear everything we say.

The football experience is about the total package, from the top of the bleachers to the center of the 50 yard line. We’re all a part of it, so let’s do our best to make the games as positive an experience as they can be.

And don’t forget, after the game, you can always catch us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.

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