Two years ago, a 12-year-old boy and his dad disembark from a car behind West Haven High School prior to the Class LL championship football game between Southington and Xavier. The family is in Connecticut for the high school football playoffs from Wisconsin to see their relative – former Southington quarterback Matt Kelleher now at Yale – play in the Class LL championship.
As they make their way toward Ken Strong Stadium, they hear the black-clad rooters from the opposing team chanting the following epithet, “Kelleher swallows! Kelleher swallows!”
The boy turns to his father and says, “What does that mean, Dad? Why are they saying our name and then ‘swallows’ after it? The father struggles to come up with an answer.
I was at the game. I can attest to the aforementioned behavior and then some. So why dredge up bad old memories?
The Northwest Conference on the eve of the basketball season has issued a proclamation to its member schools that sportsmanship will be required fan behavior at its events.
While I think it is a sad day when administrators have to become proactive in creating such rules and regulations, there is no question that it is necessary. Abusive taunts and ridicule of our high school athletes has spread like a brush fire through the populace of our schools, some much worse than others.
One school does it and another picks up on it. One group of face-painted banshees mocks a player because of what they perceive as his resemblance to the bumbling character in a popular movie. The other school’s fools respond with indignities about a Catholic school education.
Somebody’s got to stop this. No one at our seats of higher learning, like Duke, for instance, chose to nip it when otherwise intelligent human beings started acting like idiots to attract ESPN's attention. Of course, ESPN responded predictably. I guess the politically correct thing to say is that putting an end to this nonsense violates free speech, but I’m sure this isn’t what George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had in mind.
From where I’m sitting, I’d like to offer my congratulations to the NWC administrators for having the foresight to legislate before it touches off some real violence. I urge athletic directors across the league to take enforcement seriously. Perhaps the CCC and other leagues across the state will take a look, and the CIAC will adopt the measure.
Maybe even Duke will listen.