On Wisconsin: Fears For Cheers In The Land Of The Cheeseheads

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The tradition of yelling "air ball!" when someone whiffs has now been deemed "unsporting" by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. To which Sarah Spain asks, seriously, Wisconsin?

"Fa-ther went bank-rupt!"

*clap-clap-clap-clap-clap*

"Mom was in Play-boy!"

*clap-clap-clap-clap-clap*

So went the cheers directed at a boy on the basketball team at my suburban Chicago high school. The son of a professional athlete and former model, he was bound to get extra attention from fans of opposing teams. I always felt terrible for him when he'd step up to the free-throw line and, almost inevitably, get an earful about Mom and Dad.

When I heard that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association had sent out an email requesting that school administrators regulate "unsporting behavior" at high school events, I immediately thought of that kid. Sometimes people go a little too far, especially considering the already fragile, hormone-plagued, pimple-ridden psyches of high school kids. Had some young Wisconsinite undergone a similar barrage of insults and lashed out? Or, even worse, maybe games had been sullied by homophobic, racist or otherwise damaging slurs?

Nah, Wisconsin's just bein' weird.

According to the WIAA's email, which was obtained and shared by The Post Crescent, there has been "a noticeable increase in the amount of chants by student sections directed at opponents and/or opponents' supporters that are clearly intended to taunt or disrespect." The email continued:

Not wanting to restrict creativity or enjoyment, an enthusiastic and boisterous display of support for a school's team is welcomed and encouraged at interscholastic events when directed in a positive manner. However, any action directed at opposing teams or their spectators with the intent to taunt, disrespect, distract or entice an unsporting behavior in response [is] not acceptable sportsmanship. Student groups, school administrators and event managers should take immediate steps to correct this unsporting behavior.

Some specific examples of unsporting behavior by student groups including chants directed at opposing participants and/or fans. Among the chants that have been heard at recent high school sporting events are: "You can't do that," "Fundamentals," "Air ball," "There's a net there," "Sieve," "We can't hear you," The "scoreboard" cheer, and "Season's over" during tournament series play.

Yes, that's right, the time-honored tradition of yelling "air ball!" when someone truly whiffs on a shot has now been deemed "unsporting." Seriously, Wisconsin? And "season's over" is not only the triumphant chant that naturally follows a postseason win, it's also 100% factual for the team that has lost. These kids are just speaking the truth. The WIAA somehow even found fault with "We can't hear you," which, in essence, is just encouraging the opponents' fans to provide louder support for their team. That's just the kind of "boisterous display of support" you claim to encourage, Wisconsin.

God knows what kind of idiots are yelling "There's a net there," but I, for one, am perfectly fine with that not being a thing anymore. Assuming it ever was. I'm not, however, fine with attempting to do away with the "sieve" chant, which was a beloved tradition at my alma mater.

"Sieve! Sieve!"

"It's all your fault! It's all your fault!"

I used to gleefully chant that along with the rest of the Lynah Faithful whenever the Cornell hockey team scored. Yelling "sieve" at the opposing team's goalie felt like such an adult, educated way to punish him for his error. His job was to stop the puck and he hadn't done it. He was, therefore, deserving of our scorn. I don't wanna live in a world where it's considered unsportsmanlike to lob advanced heckling insults that half of the country probably can't even properly pronounce (you're trying to say "sieve" in your head now, aren't you).

Sports are all about adversity, fighting through it, or getting beaten down by it and still coming back for more. You learn how to win well, and you learn how to lose well. You toughen up in the face of a challenge, acquiring a thick skin that will serve you over and over again later in life. You think I could deal with the vitriol spewed at me by Twitter trolls if I hadn't already talked trash with the best of 'em in AAU basketball tournaments and battled a barrage of insults while wearing that Rip Hamilton/Friday the 13th mask for half of junior year field hockey season?

If a goalie is sick of hearing that "sieve" chant, then he should close up the damn five-hole and protect the net. If a kid throws up a three that doesn't catch rim, she should hear those chants of "air ball" in her dreams until she starts draining treys. That's how motivation works.

If a goalie is sick of hearing that "sieve" chant, then he should close up the damn five-hole and protect the net. If a kid throws up a three that doesn't catch rim, she should hear those chants of "air ball" in her dreams until she starts draining treys. That's how motivation works.
Sarah Spain

As someone who often speaks out about actual meaningful issues, like trying to eliminate racist, sexist and homophobic slurs in sport, I'm offended that the WIAA is offended by chants like "fundamentals." Who the hell cares if someone's yelling "fundamentals?" And who's yelling that, anyway, when far better cheers like "You suck!" exist? Furthermore, those who drone on about how political correctness is making our country "soft" have just been gift-wrapped a perfect example of needless meddling and coddling. Save the outrage for the stuff that matters, Wisconsin! You're not doing these kids any favors protecting them from the "scoreboard" cheer.

And if you're really going to encourage school administrators to "take immediate steps" when someone yells "air ball," then I'm going to take immediate steps to provide the teens of Wisconsin with other things to yell instead. Here's a short list of suggested replacement chants:

When an opposing goalie lets in a softie: COLAN-DER! COLAN-DER!

When a basketball player misses the rim and backboard entirely: DEPTH PER-CEP-TION! DEPTH PER-CEP-TION!

When your team has eliminated the opposition from the postseason: LET'S GO GOLF-ING! *clap-clap-clap-clap-clap*

When the other team's fans are cheering despite being well behind: YOU ARE LO-SING! YOU ARE LO-SING!

And by the by, are we really going to take fan engagement rules seriously from the state that's known for wearing giant foam blocks of cheese on their heads? I think not.

Oh, and another thing ...

Have you guys heard about the Ladyball? It's a "revolution in evolution!" Nah, it's actually just a pink volleyball that the Irish makers of Ladyball seem to think can be used for nearly any sport, as long as women are the ones playing. I say that because neither the Twitter posts, website copy, nor promotional video for Ladyball shows anyone actually playing with the ball, nor do they ever come right out and suggest what sport it's meant to be used for. What they do tell you, is that the Ladyball is "soft-touch for a women's grip, eazi-play for a woman's ability and fashion-driven for a women's style."

The Ladyball already has a celebrity spokesperson in the form of Irish footballer Ger Brennan, who did an interview with the Ladyball.com website about his involvement with the product. A Ladyball print ad popped up in the Irish Examiner, and the Twitter account posted a commercial and asked, "Spotted us on TV yet?" When contacted by the Irish Examiner, neither Brennan nor the makers of Ladyball were willing to speak about the product or provide a sample.

So is this whole thing as much of a hoax as it sounds? It almost has to be with promotional posts like this

But if it it's one big joke they're certainly going for the long con, and they're certainly spending a fair bit of money simply to get a rise out of folks. While I'd like to say I'm certain that no one could possibly be daft enough to think that coloring a volleyball pink and calling it "Ladyball" would be a viable product, and I'd like to believe that no one in the year 2016 would try to appeal to women in this manner, I know that the Bic Crystal for Her exists. 'Nuff said.

UPDATE: The Ladies Gaelic Football Association has announced the "Ladyball" campaign and faux product launch were meant to draw attention to a sponsorship deal between the league and Lidl grocery stores.

LGFA said in a statement, "The fabricated product and associated 360-degree marketing campaign was designed by Lidl, with the support of the LGFA, to put the spotlight on women in sport in Ireland and raise awareness of the difficulties female sports persons have in getting the same recognition as their male counterparts."

You can read more here.

Related Content