Trust me, I get it. Fans want their teams to win.
I’ve been known to shout some awful things at Darius Slay when he doesn’t pick off a ball for the Detroit Lions he should’ve easily gotten. I’ve certainly said some things I’m not proud of to Braden Holtby when he lets in a goal for the Washington Capitals. I’ve definitely yelled and screamed at my television until I was blue in the face.
But there’s huge difference between yelling at a professional adult while I’m in my living room and screaming at a child on a Friday night from the stands.
For everything I love about Martin-Savarese Stadium, I was especially thankful for it after I had to go to Bulldog Stadium in Opelika last week. That stadium is gorgeous; it’s state of the art. But its bleachers are also very close to the sideline.
I guess I had never realized how much I tune out the crowd noise on Friday nights until it was next to impossible to do so when Benjamin Russell played Opelika last week. And I was truly disgusted by some of the things I heard.
What’s worse is they were directed at a 17-year-old kid.
Let’s not beat around the bush about it.
People in this community think Carter Smith is playing quarterback for BRHS because he’s the coach’s son. But I’m going to tell you this: The woes of the Wildcats are not Smith’s fault. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes than people know.
First of all, the first few games were against defensive lines that were monstrous. He faced a ton of pressure and when you’ve been hit over and over and over again, it’s easy to go into panic mode. It’s hard to be patient as a quarterback when you’ve been trained to learn over the course of multiple games you don’t have time to be patient.
Another thing is there aren’t a lot of options. Yes, Brett Pitts did a great job when he came during the second half of the Demopolis game. Yes, Elijah Spivey directed the offense well against Chilton County — although, in all fairness, anyone can stand back there and hand the ball off to Hezekiah Hunter when he’s running like that. But those guys aren’t quarterbacks in the true sense of the word, and they’re really needed elsewhere on the field.
Thirdly, for as well as the defense has played, the Wildcats have also given up four touchdowns or more in half their games. That’s hard for any offense, much less a struggling one, to keep up with.
But regardless of who’s playing, why they’re playing or the reasons why someone else hasn’t taken over, that’s really not the point.
The point is Smith is a 17-year-old, and he’s just an example I’m using to point out a much bigger problem.
These kids are, well, kids. I understand people want their team to win. Do I want to see Smith succeed? Absolutely. Do I wish Benjamin Russell was having a better season? Of course. Would I ever think about shouting heinous things at a child from the bleachers? Never.
We can’t put the weight of the world on these players.
Not only do they have to put up with what they’re hearing from the community and the crowd and yes, the media, but they also have to hear it in school. That’s absurd. People need to support these kids, and that goes for everyone. I won’t get on my soapbox about sports being about life lessons, but there’s more to it than winning and losing.
And if your happiness hinges on what a high school football team does on Friday night, then we’ve got bigger problems. Yes, you should support our local teams. Sure, you should want them to win. Of course it’s fine to be mad when they lose.
But it is never, and I repeat never, OK to yell obscenities at a 17-year-old kid. He can hear you.
Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor of The Herald.