Chants can have a lot of impact

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Imagine if you showed up late somewhere due to a construction delay. That shouldn’t be difficult for New Mexicans to visualize; orange barrels litter our state for month after month as road projects drag on without much accountability or sense of urgency.

 

But if you had a sense of urgency, and really wanted to get somewhere, you’d be upset if a construction zone caused you to be late to your destination. Now picture someone making fun of you for your tardiness, even though the circumstances were beyond their control.
That’s exactly what some Valencia High people have had to go through since Nov. 16, when Los Lunas Schools announced that four football players had been “suspended” due to a hazing incident. While no charges have been brought and no lawsuits filed, the immediate perception of Valencia as some type of hazing mecca spread quickly and across the state, fueled in part by the high emotions around such crimes, and driven in part by the lack of publicly identified suspects or their faces.
Guilt and innocence is not something I’m attempting to address here. But there is a different type of guilt many of us can share in, and that is unfairly judging and poking fun at those who likely had nothing to do with any part of the alleged incident.
When the Valencia boys basketball team played at Los Lunas High on Feb. 18, the two large student sections continually came up with different chants. These chants only occasionally addressed the teams; many were directed toward the other section, and became more and more personal as the game went along.
Finally, the LLHS section, amid a flurry of traded catch phrases, decided on “No More Ha-zing” as a chant. Faculty quickly put a stop to the chant, but the damage was done, and it signified a deeper chasm that gains steam when people lump each other into groups.
It wasn’t the first time a District 6-4A sporting event required faculty intervention to quash hazing references by fans, but hopefully there won’t be many more of those.
So many have put energy into new hazing jokes in the past few months, some in very creative (albeit childish) ways, and that energy would be better used on cheering their teams.
When the same Tiger and Jaguar hoops teams met at VHS in a Feb. 23 district tournament game, the student sections hardly seemed to notice there was basketball going on. Some students brought signs bearing messages deemed inappropriate by administrators, and those signs were confiscated and destroyed.
This level of enthusiasm would be more encouraging if not only were it directed more at the game, but also if hazing were not mentioned at all. It’s not fair to blast an entire community, school, or even a single team or group for an alleged incident, which, by public accounts, involves a small number of individuals.
The validity of allegations is not important here. What if every single Valencia High student had pleaded guilty to heinous felonies in recent months? Would that make it O.K. to include inflammatory insults at a sporting event? I hope not.
It also holds no water to say, “Well, they started it, and they said this and that.” While fans at an emotional rivalry game often tend to yell things that are personal or mean, you make your own choices about how to respond. That’s why it would make more sense to encourage your team to play hard than to worry about what the other fans are doing.
Valencia fans are hardly above reproach for some of their behavior, but that doesn’t mean they deserve to be pigeonholed or stereotyped due to an alleged incident.
Scholastic sporting events, especially football and basketball, are every bit the social and bonding experience for fans as these are about cheering for a victory. But there’s no reason why the fun has to be at the expense of associating large groups with toxic accusations.