Opinion: Sportsmanship is not just for nerds

Pulling together for a common cause. Photo by David Hickey.

As administrators from Palo Alto and Los Gatos High schools work together to turn growing tension between cheering sections at a sporting event into a teaching moment, there's something every student fan of either team can do to help the situation.

Talk to each other. Face to face. And listen.

It's great that both schools are organizing the "Positive Sportsmanship Summit," to be held at a neutral site. In fact, it shows that people from different neighborhoods can work together. But the real change will come at the grass roots level and that's where student leaders, athletes and the general student population come in.

Sportsmanship is not just about being on your best behavior. It's also about respect. Respect for yourself, for your classmates and for others. Respect is practicing the "The Golden Rule."

You're all about the same age and in the same situation, with mounting pressure to achieve good grades and to get into the colleges of your choice. I understand there are forces trying to get you to grow up before you're ready. Talking to each other has a way of defusing things, so that you're not just seeing a Viking or Wildcat but a real person.

Being an athlete means taking responsibility, following team rules so that you are all focused on the same goal. It's takes a great deal of maturity to play sports at the high school level. It also leads to a great deal of satisfaction and fun.

Sports are supposed to be an outlet for a good time, a way to support your school and display good manners. Athletes are energized by fan support, not fan hate.

It's not an outlet to display how vulgar or demeaning you can be. In fact, that's just a reflection of the way you see yourself.

In order to have an athletic competition, whether it be a blowout or a nail-biter, there has to be two teams. There can be no loser unless the contest takes place. Essentially, both teams have already won by simply taking the field.

I realize 99 out of 100 fans are good, well-meaning people who cheer hard and are loyal to their heroes. Don't let the one percent dictate how the public views your school.

You think it's unfair to punish the entire student body? What one person does has consequences for everybody. You're only as good as your weakest link. The good news is that anyone can strengthen the bond, especially if you work together.

You want to show the administrators something? Show up en masse at a public place, show your school spirit and hold a positive, peaceful rally before the next Los Gatos-Palo Alto contest you can't attend.

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