My first high school memory was a speech Mr. Hutchinson gave to our freshman class in our first week, in typical Hutch fashion, with no microphone and no script.
He explained that he saw two types of students at this school: flowers and weeds. The flowers grow tall, making the garden beautiful. The weeds, however, negate the flowers’ beauty and can ruin the garden for everyone.
After the Raiders’ win over Rocky River in the hockey state semi-final, there was some weedy behavior on Twitter. A Rocky River student tweeted that she punched a Shaker student, and the Shaker student responded that she could beat up the Rocky River student, and she tweeted back calling the Shaker student a bad name, and someone’s friend chimed in, and so on until a full-out, vulgar Twitter war broke out between tens of Shaker and Rocky River students.
Please note that I am not easily offended. At all. The vulgarity of the resulting tweets is not my greatest concern; this column wasn’t inspired by the offensiveness of the tweets, but instead the worrying prospect that students are valuing sportsmanship less and less.
The fact that one ignorant tweet became the catalyst for a racist Twitter war is absolutely deplorable, and it’s disappointing that students, especially Shaker students, don’t have the sportsmanship, or the discipline, to take the high road in meaningless bickering with people they don’t even know.
It’s also unfortunate that many Shaker students stereotyped all of Rocky River as “rednecks” or “hillbillies.” It’s sad that a racially accepting, SGORR-oriented group of students would stoop so low and play on shameful stereotypes.
I am not defending Rocky River students; they are just as much to blame. From what I heard, the Rocky River students were more provocative than their Shaker counterparts, throwing ice and yelling racial slurs. Even so, we can’t change others; we can only change ourselves. We need to take the high road.
The troubling thing about Shaker fans, and about the high school in general, is the weeds; we have a behavior problem. The actions of a few students ruin activities and traditions for the entire school. Whether it’s celebrating a historic victory or enjoying 9 p.m. hockey games or holding pep rallies or voting for a homecoming court, the misled actions of a few poor decision makers ruin otherwise innocuous activities for the entire student body. Last night is just the latest in that unfortunate pattern.
However, the weeds are the minority; most Shaker students are flowers, and that they understand that misguided actions may harm themselves, their peers and Shaker’s reputation. These students are not the problem and are, in fact, the solution.
The only way to become a more sportsmanlike student body is for each individual student to consciously choose to act sportsmanlike, to take the high road and not engage the other team. And it’s not a huge fix; the foundations of sportsmanship are ideas that Shaker students have learned since kindergarten: treat others how you want to be treated, turn the other cheek and, most of all, be respectful of others, regardless of their race or background.
Realize that sportsmanship and support are not mutually exclusive; Shaker students can still support their Raiders with the same ferocity and consistency that we have for decades. But after the game is over, it’s over. Let it go. It’s done. Over. Continuing a fight with an opposing team after the final buzzer is stealing the spotlight from the athletes and selfishly putting it on yourself.
The hockey team won the battle on the ice; you don’t have to fight the battle on Twitter. We’ve already won. And even if we hadn’t, it doesn’t matter; the game is over. You’re not going to change anything by tweeting.
What some Rocky River students did that night was reprehensible, and I am appalled by the lack of respect on their end. However, fighting hate with more hate just makes the problem worse. Engaging those students did not save any face; instead, it shifted the focus from our amazing hockey team to racism and ignorance.
Shaker has one of the best hockey teams in Ohio. And our fans are some of the best, too. But we fans must be better, if not for ourselves then for our team and for our school.
We cannot change other schools’ behavior; we can only change ourselves. Individually, we must become more respectful, levelheaded, sportsmanlike fans; we must not be so selfish as to steal the spotlight from the athletes who worked so hard for this opportunity.
Most of all, we must be flowers and not weeds.