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OPINION - A high school football 'point of emphasis'

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)   Every time the SPASH football team got a first down last Friday night, the sound effect of a growling panther was played over the stadium's PA system. It's similar to the Vikings horn that sounds each time they get a first down.

Honestly, it's annoying. But there's nothing wrong with it. It's one of the small things the home team does when they do something good on the field.

That might be going away.

The WIAA, which regulates high school sports in Wisconsin, has issued a point of emphasis in their August bulletin. This is where coaches, athletic directors, officials and students are told of rule changes. For the first time the WIAA is offering guidelines for stadium public address announcers.

The message: the PA announcer should be neutral. No "cheering" for the home team.

There are many specific guidelines I agree with. The public address system should not be used to incite the crowd, especially after bad calls by the officials. (At one game last year after a questionable penalty the PA announcer said "pass interference?" as if to pose a question instead of announcing "pass interference.")

But it's unrealistic to think that the PA announcer will be voice-neutral when something good happens for the home team. These announcers are seldom professionals - they're most often teachers at the home school or members of the football booster club. They're excited - and should be - when their team scores.

The WIAA is a champion for good sportsmanship. I salute them for it. They've cracked down on taunting and unsportsmanlike displays involving student-athletes, and their efforts have been successful. And those rules work because they allow room for athletes to show basic, spontaneous emotion during times of success. Premeditated celebrations aren't allowed - nor should they be. We don't need to see a high school player dance, strut or spike after a touchdown.

I covered more than 40 D.C. Everest High School sporting events last year. I can report that good sportsmanship is the rule; bad sportsmanship is a rare exception. Enlightened rules take into account that sports are emotional, with highs and lows for players and spectators. You wouldn't want to listen to an emotionless play-by-play broadcast. It would be boring. It’s unrealistic to expect the PA announcers to bottle up their school spirit.

Chris Conley