Wisconsin’s ban on student chants, and the wonderful responses it has drawn

Papermaker fansIf you’ve ever been to a high school sporting event, you’ve probably heard organized chants from the student body in the stands.

Often, these chants are very, very clever.

Basically, if it can fit into a four syllables, students can make it work in a chant.

In fact, during a slow moment at a basketball game last month, I even heard the Mountain View student body chant: “TIM-MAR-TI-NEZ!!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) TIM-MART-TI-NEZ!!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap).”

Now, it makes me wonder if such a chant would fly these days in Wisconsin.

Last month, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (Yes, that is the WIAA) issues a message to its members to encourage them from stopping chants deemed unsportsmanlike.

Here is the context of that message:

As we reviewed the fall tournaments and the sportsmanship evaluations and observations, we want to address concerns with a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents’ supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect.

Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school’s team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response in not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.

Some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups (include) chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans. Among the chants that have been heard at recent high school sporting events are: “You can’t do that,” “Fundamentals,” “Air ball,” “There’s a net there,” “Sieve,” “We can’t hear you,” The “scoreboard” cheer, and “Season’s over” during tournament series play.

OK, first things first. I had to look up the “Sieve” chant, as I had never heard that one before. Turns out, it’s a hockey chant, which would explain why I hadn’t heard it. Fans chant “sieve” as the goalkeeper who keeps allowing the puck to slide past and into the goal.

Then last week, April Gehl, a three-sport standout and honor student at Hilbert (Wisc.) High School, was suspended five basketball games by her school for a tweet she posted in response to Wisconsin’s new directive.

Gehl was stunned, telling a local newspaper “I couldn’t believe it. It was like ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion? I thought it was ridiculous.”

Welllllllllll …..

When I first saw this story, Gehl’s tweet was not quoted but described as “three-word tweet that contained an expletive.”

So I thought her tweet could be paraphrased into “This is baloney” which would draw some empathy for Gehl’s case.

But, no, that wasn’t Gehl’s tweet. Gehl’s tweet, which is still on her Twitter feed, could be best paraphrased as “Consume excrement WIAA.”

I think we can all agree that was not the most appropriate of responses and not the kind of eloquent retort we might expect from an honor student.

Perhaps Gehl should take a lesson from ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who tweeted out a stream of wonderful tweets in response to Wisconsin’s chant ban.

It started with a tweet that said “All supporters of Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules banning fun gather in solidarity with WIAA.” It includes an image of two fans sitting alone among rows of empty seats.


Then it continued with …

  • WIAA acceptable chant: “We not your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary.”
  • WIAA acceptable chant: “We hope for a positive outcome while fully realizing that the result is not a negative reflection upon our guest.”
  • WIAA acceptable chant on FT attempt: “We cannot in goo conscience pretend we want you to make this, but wish you good luck, nonetheless.”
  • WIAA acceptable chant to officials: “Dir Sirs: We beg to differ, but thank you for your service to our game.”
  • Under new rules, a crowd behaving in an acceptable fashing at a Wisconsin high school basketball game. (It includes an image of dozens of nuns in full habits watching a sporting event).
  • nunzzWIAA acceptable chant: “Your lofty ranking is not subject to question, but we respectfully submit that our team may have been overlooked.”
  • WIAA acceptable chant: “That’s alright, that’s okay, we hope for full employment for all based solely upon merit someday.”
  • WIAA acceptable chant: “We shall not spell out anything in unison regarding your appearance, and hope you have a positive self image.”

And my personal favorite

  • WIAA acceptable FT chant: “We will reduce our level of ambient noise on your attempt, unless you find such silence to be disconcerting.”

I’ll offer one more suggestion to fans in Wisconsin of a four-syllable chant that does not taunt or disrespect their opponents or their fans.

“FIRST-A-MEND-MENT!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap) FIRST-A-MEND-MENT!! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)”

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