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Scathing Online Schoolmarm
January 31, 2008 - 9:27am



Drunken assholes in a rage don't make decorous fans.

The NCAA, whose annual meeting in Nashville UD just attended, can dither all it wants about what it calls bad bench decorum -- players and coaches and fans at bigtime football and basketball games who say very very naughty things very very loudly -- but for a lot of students and alumni the American university represents above all an institution which offers luxury sports venues in which they can express a cult fervency that would make the hitlerjugend blush.

You could argue, for the sake of argument, that vicious mass behavior stands at some remove from what universities are supposed to be about. But let's not go there. Let's go to this column in the Los Angeles Times about a recent incident.

"Because of my deep family ties to the University of Oregon and my long-held sense of Eugene as an open-minded and tolerant place, the ugly, bigoted way that some Ducks fans behaved during the men's basketball home game last week against UCLA was an embarrassment. [Okay opening sentence, but too many adjectives: deep, long-held, ugly, bigoted . You want your initial statement to be clean and strong, not clotted up with words. Your subsequent paragraphs will have plenty of time to take up the ugliness, which should emerge naturally from the narrative, so that the reader can follow and then join you in your reactions.]

That feeling, and my outrage, deepened when a school spokesman [Again you are featuring your emotions rather than what happened. Instead of flatly stating I'm outraged , go with what happened.] said after the game that little could have been done to keep unruly fans from yelling whatever they pleased.

So it was good to hear a humbled Pat Kilkenny [ That'd be the money-bags who runs the Oregon show... SOS , having read about the guy, doubts humbled applies.]... tell me that he would do what's right if this happened again. If they crossed the line, as happened last week, he'd be willing to kick verbally abusive fans out of gyms and stadiums [ He was always able to do that, and the behavior's a notorious and established problem. Why didn't he do it at the event itself?] [Okay. I'll answer that. Do you know how much a ticket costs? Do you know how desperate Oregon is for a full arena?], 1st Amendment be damned.

Now he must follow through. And now, since Oregon is far from the first place where fans have run amok, it's time for other universities, and the NCAA, to clamp down on spectators who fill college stadiums with hateful banners and verbal poison. [Closer parallel structure would be better with this last phrase: hateful banners and toxic words , for instance.]

This all started last Thursday [ We now switch to narrative. SOS thinks the essay would have been better had it opened with narrative .], when some unruly fans turned Oregon's venerable McArthur Court - a basketball shrine virtually unchanged since my late father played forward for the Ducks in the early 1950s - into a hotbed of bitterness. [The mention of his father is good, though shrine doesn't fit -- Does the writer mean we should expect churchly behavior? - and hotbed of bitterness is awkward. I mean, if you do want to go with venerable and shrine , then the thing it's turned into should be... dive ? ]

The target was Kevin Love, the gifted freshman who grew up near Portland but left his home state last year for Westwood.

Some Ducks fans, lost in their immaturity [ Very weak phrase. drunk out of their minds might have been better.], view Love as a traitor. From the warm-ups to the final seconds, they heaped scorn [ Cliche; and in any case not strong enough as a description of their behavior.] on the Bruins' No. 42 and his family.

There's cheering and booing that is within the bounds of civility. [ Awkward use of to be verbs: There's... that is... Tighten this. You can boo and cheer in a civil way .] But sometimes it goes out of bounds, into a realm society should not condone. [ Very awkward. Broad use of the word society is always bland and vague. Freshmen are fond of the society formulation, and SOS is always telling them to knock it off. Condone can come across, particularly when you're writing an otherwise pleasantly conversational sports piece, as rather pretentious.] You know it when you see it, know it when you hear it. [Good.]

There were stabs at Love's looks, at his mother, father and the history of mental illness in his family.

This was disgusting. [ You don't need this sentence.]

What drew my ire the most [ drew my ire' s a bit High Anglican for this setting, even if the arena's a shrine.] were reports of long, loud, homophobic chants directed at UCLA's young center.

This was bigotry. Imagine a stadium full of a chant that ended with the n-word. Imagine a Jewish player being laced with anti-Semitic barbs, or a white player getting blitzed for his fair skin. [This is a pretty tired argumentative move, but okay.] No difference here. [You don't need this sentence.]

The homophobic taunts could be classified in a court of law as hate speech: fighting words, the kind of words that, spoken on a street corner, are too often [Drop too often] a prelude to violence. In fact, violence may well have been prevented during the Bruins victory only by security that gathered near Love's family. [SOS follows American university life closely. She's intrigued to see that this is where we've gotten in our national educational life.]

It got worse when, after the game, an Oregon spokesman leaned on the 1st Amendment and said that while the behavior was disgusting, fans had a right to free speech.

That's a university wanting a frenzied home-court advantage, but not wanting to tell out-of-control fans what's what. That's hiding behind the law, an institution not wanting to do the right thing because it's afraid of a suit. [It's worse than that. Universities like Oregon have invested huge amounts of money in teams that must win, and in expensive seats that must be filled. They're not about to alienate their fan base.]

I spoke with Duke professor Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nation's leading legal scholars, and told him that Oregon officials feared trampling on the rights of fans who spewed verbal bile during games.

He said they were wrong, morally and legally. So long as a university did not further punish fans by, say, tossing offending students out of school, pulling them from a game or limiting access would be within legal limits.

"It's a minimal infringement of speech," the professor said. "It's minimal to lose your privilege to be at a basketball game. Because of that, if this ended up in a trial [over free speech], the courts would side with Oregon."

At least the Oregon athletic director appears ready to step up and take a swing at the problem." [ take a swing is nice -- a sports metaphor. But only a fool would believe that, with all the money at stake, Oregon, or any bigtime athletic university, is going to do anything to alienate its most loyal customers.]


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