We can cheer, we can cry, we can even be disappointed. But we can't throw anything, including tantrums.
We all know that when it comes to youth athletics, the rivalry almost always reaches beyond the playing field. Fans play a big role and can help set the tone for a big game.
But recently that rivalry got out of hand when a Laurel Hill fan threw a bottle out of frustration, striking a fan from the other team. It quickly turned into a frenzied melee, with punches and accusations being thrown freely.
The brawl overshadowed last Saturday's district game and spilled into the public forum for days afterward, culminating in the Holmes County Sheriff issuing an official statement and the bottle-throwing fan calling and writing an apology.
"None of you know me, but I greatly owe you all an apology," he wrote. "I am the fan from Laurel Hill who threw a bottle onto the court following the game Saturday night. It was an inappropriate and inexcusable action that I deeply regret — a momentary lapse in judgment that should have never happened and will never happen again, from me."
The gym was cleared after the fight broke out and investigation into the matter continues. In the aftermath, Laurel Hill fans accused deputies of using racial slurs. Bethlehem fans accused Laurel Hill fans of being poor sports in not just this, but previous competitions. The Holmes County sheriff, who was at the game, said he didn't hear his deputies using racial slurs and invited folks to come forward with proof of such behavior.
But it should serve as a valuable reminder to impassioned fans everywhere that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed, no matter how heated the competition on the court gets. No one wins when poor sportsmanship dominates an athletic event. Bad behavior overshadows the accomplishments of young competitors and, it could be argued, sets the tone for their behavior.
As a number of area teams advance in state series competition, let's all remember that we're there to support the athletes, not distract from them. We can cheer, we can cry, we can even be disappointed. But we can't throw anything, including tantrums.