By Jason Sethre
Fillmore County Journal
I think we’ve all attended a high school sporting event and witnessed some behavior from a fan that made for an awkward situation. It sets the tone and become a toxic situation for all involved.
Some people are more expressive than others, but there is a point at which a line is crossed. Referees often bear the brunt of it.
Senior Noah Bjerke-Wieser, captain of the La Crescent-Hokah High School varsity boys basketball team, took a stand about a month ago, and people have taken notice.
At the December 13 basketball game between La Crescent-Hokah and Fillmore Central, played in La Crescent, a fan was yelling at a referee. Noah spoke up to the fan, and said there is no need for the extra comments to the referees.
That evening, following the game, Noah shared this message on social media.
“Hello lancer community, I am Noah Bjerke-Wieser and I would like to talk about our teams basketball game tonight. We all know that there were some controversial calls last night but nothing is going to be perfect. As a captain of the varsity team I would like to come out and say we need to stop yelling at the refs, us as players, and as spectators in the stands. Nobody will ever call a perfect game and everybody makes mistakes. We all get it is frustrating watching and playing in a game where the officiating is not great. But we need to stop. It is hard enough to get officials to ref a varsity game anyway, it doesn’t help when they specifically don’t want to ref for a lacrescent game because they know they will be getting yelled at. I personally would appreciate it if we could change the ‘lacrescent way’ and when refs see lacrescent on the schedule they WANT to ref for us because of how great our team and fan base are. As players and spectators we need to let the players play, the officials officiate, and the fans cheer. I know I am not perfect in this too but we need to change. I hope we can all come together as a community and change for the better. Thank you for coming and supporting us but let’s support our team in a positive way.”
Nearly everyone has had a moment in which a game got us a little overzealous. I’m guilty of it myself. I have not agreed with a call made by a referee, but I also know I wouldn’t want that job. I don’t think it is as easy as everyone seems to think it is to be a referee. Even with hours and hours of training, they are making decisions on the fly. They are human and can make mistakes.
I think Noah’s message speaks volumes. To fans – and parents in particular – our young people are paying attention to our words and actions.
I’ve witnessed a bench full of high school students playing the antagonist card when the opposing team is on offense. Chanting, booing, and saying obnoxious things to throw off their rivals.
I’d like to encourage a more protagonist approach.
Be a champion. Cheer for your team or individual players. Don’t cheer against these kids on the other team.
Go easy on the referees. They are just trying to do their job to the best of their ability. And, keep in mind there has been a referee shortage. Who is going to want that job when they are getting yelled at by fans at every game?
Getting back to Noah’s social media post, I asked him if he has seen a change in the tone of games and treatment of referees since he made that statement. His response, “Yes, definitely for the better.”