A Return to Civility

August 20, 2008 | By | Comments (5)

On an early morning walk this week, I glimpsed the first promise of fall.

Dew clung to the summer-brown grasses and lacy fog hugged the river bottoms, both damp reminders of a late night thunderstorm. As I marched briskly along the fence rows, something from above caught my eye. I stopped to watch as a single yellow leaf, released from its home high atop a poplar tree, floated gracefully on the morning breeze and settled in the meadow below. Excitement coursed through my veins as I instantly began to count—less than two weeks until college football begins!


enjoy each of the four seasons (as well as an occasional night in a
Four Seasons), but I must confess that I love autumn best. I have been
waiting for the kick off of college football since January 7, when the
LSU Tigers rolled over the Ohio State Buckeyes to claim the national

But something’s been bothering me, and I’ve got to get it off my chest.
Last year’s topsy-turvy season was one of the most exciting on record,
and I was lucky enough to see more than a dozen games in person. I
experienced first hand some of the finest traditions and biggest
rivalries in college football, but I also witnessed some truly
horrifying fan behavior. I saw it all, from cursing and name calling to
drunkenness and fighting.

this caused me to do a little soul searching. I’ve never been to a game
drunk, and I’ve certainly never been escorted out in handcuffs, but I’m
not exactly innocent either. I’ve booed my share of referees and argued
vociferously with fellow fans. I dare say that if instant replay were
available, I’d be ashamed of some of the things I’ve said and done.

I’m not the only one who sees the problem. Virginia Tech has instituted a sportsmanship awareness program called Hokies Respect
to remind their fans to behave. Other schools have cracked down on
ill-mannered conduct with a greater police presence and more vigorous

the truth is this—it all begins with a personal commitment to more
diligently observe the rules of civility and sportsmanship. In light of
these reflections, I pledge the following:

1) I will not boo my own team(s). I never have, and I never will.

2) I
will not badmouth my own coaches at a ballgame. I don’t promise to
agree with everything they do, but while they’re on the field, leading
my team(s), I will give them my full support.

3) I
will respect the players, coaches, and fans of the opposing teams. What
would a football game without worthy opponents? It takes two to tango,
you know.

4) I
will take special care not to exhibit rude behavior in front of the
game’s youngest fans. Kids love college football too, and they need all
of us to illustrate the principles of good sportsmanship for them.

5) I will do my absolute best to engage only in behavior that I can talk about tomorrow at Sunday School.

Call me Pollyanna if you will, but this season, I pledge to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. E-mail me with your thoughts.


  1. Anthony

    Carolyn – I don’t boo teams but I have been known to boo a ref when they make a sorry call. Just can’t help it.
    I attended the Tulane- UA. After the havoc Gustav caused, UA fans showed civility from what I saw. There was no booing when our displaced team came on the field ( they practiced during the hurricane week in alabama) and I was told by a UA faithful, the fans passed on the traditional “we just beat the h*** out of you” cheer.

    September 24, 2008 at 10:53 am
  2. Carolyn

    I’ve just disovered your blog! Thanks for your comments about civility!
    I wonder if anyone besides me feels that booing is generally poor taste — even if it is twoard the other team?

    September 13, 2008 at 1:02 am
  3. Kathy

    Remember there are obnoxious fans in every crowd. Unfortunately no team is immune from stupid fans. The majority of fans from each school are able to keep things in perspective and have fun hollering for their team and having a good ole time. That is part of what makes it all such a wonderful experience! I was at the ECU vs VA Tech game this past weekend. The Ecu fans were exuberant with their win and the Tech fans were understandably stunned. But I saw nothing rude or obnoxious in anybody’s behavior after the game. Actually, quite a few people congratulated each other on a hard fought game. It was nice. That is the way it is supposed to go.

    September 1, 2008 at 10:59 am
  4. Elizabeth

    Hey Cassandra -Remember that gracefully floating poplar leaf that triggered your excitement. I had that same epiphany just yesterday. I, too was taking a walk except mine was later in the day – about six at a local park that’s adjacent to a high school. Rising above the usual park sounds of kids playing and laughter, I heard a familiar sound. The repetitive tapping of the metronome in perfect time summoning the beginning of a marching band practice. Moments later the drum line broke out in a cadence that made me pick up my step as I, too realized that we are only days away from college football !!!
    I can’t wait ! ! ! !
    Thanks for challenging us to a return to civility and sportsmanship during this football season. I say everyone needs to soul search and know where to draw the line – at the game, tailgating, or as an armchair quarterback. By all means, shout, scream and cheer on your team – but for crying out loud, don’t include vulgar remarks and one-finger salutes. I don’t want to listen to that and certainly don’t want children to be privy to it. And of course, eat, drink, and be merry – but for sportsmanship’s sake, don’t drink too much! An icy adult beverage (for adults) is refreshing in the heat and humidity of the South. But excess leads to fan behavior that stinks.
    I hereby commit to taking your Civility and Sportsmanship pledge for the 2008 college football season, and pledge to review them with my family, too.
    Changing the subject…. I’ve already been thinking about tailgating grub. I just ordered my custom team m&ms (with messages that fall very nicely into the sportsmanship pledge, I might add). I plan to strew them generously over the most incredible brownies south of the mason Dixon line. Find them here….(http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=630062) (https://www.mymms.com/) This weekend, I plan to give a trial run on a new recipe for Sesame Chicken Wings – College Football kickoff ! I’ll let you know how they turn out.

    August 27, 2008 at 12:48 pm
  5. Tracey Wilson

    I would agree with the article , but would carry it to next level and add that fans need to have fun, but remember that words hurt. In 2005 LSU played UGA in the SEC championship game and I was there to hear UGA fans telling LSU fans that we got what we deserved with Hurricane Kateina stormed into Louisiana.people lost everthing they owned and fans from UGA were nasty.

    August 25, 2008 at 3:01 pm

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