The Gazette Editorial Board
Let’s face it. If you go to a college athletic event that draws a big crowd, you may well hear some pretty nasty stuff going back and forth between fans of opposing teams, or directed to the “bad guys” on the field.
In worst-case scenarios, beer cans or other objects might be thrown, accompanied by a string of profanities that would singe the ears of even the saltiest Iowans.
That’s not everyone’s experience, of course. Maybe not even the majority.
But a story in Monday’s Gazette by IowaWatch, an independent, non-profit news service based in Iowa City, quoted several students at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, among others, who said this football season’s trash talk and other obnoxious behavior is the worst in years.
UI President Sally Mason called on students to do better before the Penn State game last month. The university’s concern is not just recent. In October 2003, then-UI President David Skorton said the behavior of some fans had become dangerous and embarrassing.
Quantifying the number of extreme bad actors at or near Kinnick Stadium in Iowa, Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, or other major college venues is difficult. We’d bet that the flow of profanity at football games has increased over the past couple of decades, but we don’t know of any data to prove it. And foul fan behavior, so often alcohol-fueled, has been around a long time.
In the past couple of seasons, the UI has stepped up enforcement and education efforts in hopes of controlling the excessively rude during tailgating and game times. But just how much more can anyone expect the university to do about curbing the excesses of individuals who are responsible for themselves? Should more and more law enforcement and other public resources be thrown at unruly fans, ad infinitum?
No. Not realistic. Especially during an entertainment event that stirs so much passion and pride.
Fans themselves are the best police. The ones who behave reasonably have the option of calling out those who don’t. A civil request for some semblance of civility can be effective — especially if the referees in the stands stick together. And if it’s ignored or the offender becomes even more offensive, well, yes, then you call for security.
That’s not a foolproof solution. There aren’t any. But giving up is a lousy option.
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