Much ado about nothing in WIAA cheering flap

AS HE SO OFTEN did, Mark Twain said it best when he said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

In this era of the Internet and instant dissemination and distribution, that’s even more true – and not just for a lie but also for misinterpretation and exaggeration.

We’ve seen another example of that right here in Wisconsin in just the past few weeks.

It all began when the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association – the governing body for high school sports in the state – sent out a reminder to member schools about sportsmanship as it applies to student cheering sections and appropriate cheers.

It was an advisory reminding schools and students of rules already in place – not an edict or an order.

That elicited a response from a member of the girls basketball team at Hilbert High School in which she castigated the WIAA for its e-mail in a manner many – including school administrators – would deem inappropriate, telling the WIAA to consume human solid waste.

School officials rightly considered that a violation of district policies and the result was a five-game suspension for the player – one-quarter of a team’s games – for the violation.

It might have ended there, but not with the Internet to make it spread like – well, wildfire, a virus, use whatever analogy you prefer.

It all became fodder for news and sports talk shows and commentators – all of whom have to fill up their air time and web space, often resulting in the same material the WIAA was invited to put on their dinner plate by that basketball player at the center of things.

The WIAA was portrayed as dictating to local schools and mandating some sort of athletic political correctness code.

The Internet was filled with memes, tweets and posts about so-called “appropriate” cheers under the WIAA “rules” and of future well-behaved

Wisconsin high school sports crowds.

It made much more out of it than it ever was and was characterized by a great deal of exaggeration, misinterpretation and misrepresentation – all of which seems to be pretty much standard for a lot of what goes out on the Internet and fills all-news and all-sports talk shows.

To begin with, these were never rules or dictates from the WIAA, simply a reminder to local schools that there is such a thing as sportsmanship and good crowd behavior.

Granted, the choice of examples in the WIAA memo overstated the case – there really is nothing wrong with cheers like “Airball,” “Scoreboard” and the like. But there are times when all should agree a line is crossed and the WIAA was just doing its job in reminding local school officials to be cognizant of that.

The Hilbert basketball player in question stepped over that line with her post about the WIAA memo. She could have made her point without using profanity and putting that out for the entire world to see. She no doubt has learned a lesson about the reach of the Internet and the impact that can have.

But mostly, all of those commentators and critics who jumped all over the WIAA and the Hilbert School District should remember in the future that there is always at least two sides to every story – if not more – and try to balance their presentations instead of reaching for the quick and easy but unfair shot.

It all brought a lot of unnecessary, unjustified and unwelcome negative publicity to Wisconsin. But it also proved Mark Twain was insightful and in many ways ahead of his time.


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