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Canzano: Fallout from ugly chant at BYU-Oregon game has jumped shark
Law would suspend coach/AD for bad fan behavior.
I happened to be in the Autzen Stadium press box last football season when a small number of dimwit students at the University of Oregon started a vulgar chant aimed at BYU’s football team.
I didn’t hear their “f**k the Mormons!” refrain from the press box. I learned about it after the game and shook my head. Then, I wondered about the hearts of those students and how embarrassed their parents would be. The following morning, I made note of it when students and administrators at UO apologized to BYU and denounced the chant.
At no point did I think football coach Dan Lanning should be suspended. Nor did I think his athletic director, Rob Mullens, should take a week off without pay. But as the French poet Jules Renard once wrote: “Look for the ridiculous in everything, and you will find it.”
You don’t need to look very hard at HB2472 to see the absurdity. I half-believe the bill is a test to see if lawmakers read what’s put on their desks. The proposed Oregon law would suspend the head coach and athletic director for a week if fans “engage in the use of derogatory or inappropriate names, insults, verbal assaults, profanity or ridicule in violation of equity focused policies.”
Decades ago, legislators in Oregon passed a law that prohibited women from engaging in wrestling matches. It was repealed in the 1980s. Also, state lawmakers once made it illegal to get married on an ice-skating rink. That was eventually repealed, too. And one of our state’s counties enacted a law that makes juggling without a license illegal.
We sometimes specialize in the unnecessary and ridiculous. HB2472 is Exhibit A. But it’s time for our state’s lawmakers to focus on things more important than trying to turn coaches and athletic directors into babysitters.
Kick the offenders out of the stadium.
Limit alcohol consumption.
Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for abusive behavior.
You know — stuff that actually makes sense. But blaming the head coach and AD for the misbehavior of a thin stripe of fans makes as much sense as holding the on-screen actors responsible for a stale bucket of movie-theater popcorn.
Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Clackamas) is proposing the bill. Her son, Ellis, happens to be a walk-on running back at Oregon. I’m certain she means well. Rep. Bynum wrote in a letter that she’s “heard horror stories from players, coaches, and staff about out-of-control behavior from student sections and fans that provides nothing productive.”
That awful chant at Autzen Stadium did provide something productive and valuable. Lots of Oregon students — most of which didn’t join the ugly chorus — demonstrated empathy and offered an apology to BYU. Campus administrators in Eugene were quick to condemn it and apologize. These things not only reinforced expectations for fan behavior but also provided a teachable moment for the campus. It was an ugly chant, but within 24 hours the view from 20,000 feet looked suspiciously like higher learning.
We need good laws. They’re important to any society. But first we need good parenting, common sense and a healthy conscience. Anyone who has ever raised a child knows doing so requires active involvement along with patience, faith, love, consistency and boundaries.
I cringed when I read HB2472 because it removes accountability from the most vital component of the stadium experience — fans themselves — and shifts the blame to the coach. What happens if the visiting fan base shouts something offensive at the game? Try to enforce a suspension for the opposing coach? Or is that also on the home team’s coach? Again, I’d rather the stadium policed itself.
A few souls started an ugly chant at Autzen Stadium during the BYU-Oregon football game last season. Some other students heard it and joined in. It was a disappointing and lousy moment on an otherwise sunny day. But there were 54,463 fans present that afternoon. Roughly 54,400 of them behaved like regular, decent people. Should Lanning receive pat on the back for that winning ratio? Should Mullens get a raise because the rest of the stadium showed some class? Nope. The coach and AD had zero to do with any of it — bad or good.
This whole thing has officially jumped the shark. I reached out to Rep. Bynum to get some clarification. Is she just trying to send a message? Or is she serious about suspending the coaches/ADs? If she answers, I’ll update here. But under the proposed law, guilty universities could lose state funding and access to law enforcement who work security at the games. That doesn’t sound like justice to me.
Ushers and security staff who work at Autzen Stadium will tell you that there are already rules in place to deal with inappropriate fan behavior. Those staffers have the authority to kick out unruly fans. Same goes for the staff at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
This is tricky stuff for the involved parties. Oregon State AD Scott Barnes called the HB2472 “unnecessary” and “impractical.” But if it’s signed into law, Barnes will be on the hook for the behavior of fans in Corvallis. Meanwhile, Lanning was asked what strategy he would employ to control fan behavior during games in Eugene.
The Oregon coach said: “I’ll tell them to be behaved, I guess.”
They sound like a couple of jugglers, don’t they?
Sure hope they have a license.
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