On Nov. 9, I attended a first-round CIF play-off football game between Ribet Academy (Los Angeles) and Flintridge Prep (La Cañada). When I showed up at Ribet Academy, I noticed that the home team had sacrificed their entire set of bleachers for the Flintridge parents and fans. Right next to the bleachers was a few sets of benches for the home team fans to sit on, but besides that most of the Ribet fans were left standing. As a neutral fan, I thought about sitting in the bleachers because I thought that it might be more comfortable, until one of the girls on my lacrosse team (I’m also a girl’s lacrosse coach at Glendale High School) approached me. She seemed flustered and said that she had been verbally harassed by some of fans from the Flintridge team and that some of them were obviously drunk. I directed her to stay close by and to not go back into the bleachers. As someone who has been around sports for most of my life, I’ve learned that unsportsmanlike behavior is just unavoidable. But at what point does it become completely out of line?
As the game drew closer to halftime, I could tell that the fans were getting pretty riled up. I looked into the bleachers and saw Flintridge fans throwing up their middle fingers at the Ribet coaches and players and yelling obscenities at the head coach, cursing at him repeatedly. When the second quarter ended, the Ribet players headed to the locker room first, and their coaches waited for a few minutes (it seemed as though they wanted to get a few words in with the refs). The Flintridge coaches led their team back into the locker room and, as they exited the field, they threw up their middle fingers and were cursing at the entire Ribet coaching staff. I could tell that the environment was not only competitive but hostile. The game proceeded and ended up going into overtime.
Watching the overtime was devastating. The Ribet players were demoralized from all of the trash-talking from the Flintridge fans and coaches. Being able to bite your tongue and be harassed for an entire game can destroy a high school age athlete inside.
Flintridge ended up winning 34-28, but the score hardly fit.
Flintridge Prep states that they strive to pursue competitive success through “the principles of honor, respect, sportsmanship, and the pure joy of athletic involvement.” Their fans, coaches, and parents made it very clear that these “principles” were not on their priority list.
As a spectator, it was pretty devastating to see such an embarrassing and disrespectful group of people go home, calling themselves “winners.”
Ryan Elizabeth Campbell