August 26, 2016

Source: Bigstock

However, a sociologist”€”or at least this one”€”thinks differently. He tells us that “€œto talk of a more appropriate “€˜way of supporting”€™ is an attitude of cultural imperialism.”€

Cultural imperialism! I suppose that no piece by this sort of sociologist would be complete without this cant expression cropping up. It’s claptrap, nonsense to claim that calls for ordinary good manners and respect for decent behavior are examples of “€œcultural imperialism.”€ If, for instance, one set of people thinks it fine to cheat in any game or sport, and another set thinks it wrong, is the latter guilty of cultural imperialism? You only have to put forth the question to see that the good professor is absurd.

Nevertheless he is still brooding on such matters and scratching his head.

“€œMaybe we should use this controversy,”€ he suggests, “€œto discuss issues such as why it is okay for a penalty-taker in football to have a whole stadium roaring at him while tennis demands silence, especially when players are serving. I don”€™t,”€ he says, “€œsee a lot of difference for the athletes involved in terms of technical requirements.”€

Well, setting aside the fact that some of us”€”old-fashioned, out-of-date cultural imperialists that we are”€”would prefer that silence be observed when a player is taking a penalty kick at goal, this is not just a matter of convention. The “€œtechnical requirements,”€ to use the professor’s somewhat quaint phrase, are indeed different. Taki, as a former tournament and Davis Cup player, could explain them better than I can, but my understanding is that players want, even need, to hear the sound of racquet on ball. This is why, even in the rowdiest Davis Cup match, when national passions and partisanship run high, umpires will remind spectators to remain silent when play is in progress. Tennis is not like a football match, and crowds know to behave differently even when their emotions are engaged.

In the end there are right ways and wrong ways for spectators to behave in every sport. They differ, of course. Nobody would want a football crowd to remain silent, just as nobody would approve of a spectator shouting as a golfer lined up a putt. But the important thing is this: Observing the conventions of crowd behavior indicates respect for the sport and the athletes, the game and the players. Insisting on this isn”€™t stuffy. It isn”€™t a matter of cultural imperialism. It’s a matter of simple decency. When you introduce the word “€œdecency,”€ it becomes clear that booing or verbal abuse of a team or individual is reprehensible. It’s wrong, nasty, and unsporting. I should have thought that even an associate professor of sociology might understand such a simple point.


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