Bleacher Report


By Tom Russell

When discussing sports of any kind, especially those with particularly passionate fans, the age-old phrase “It’s just a game” seems to be a go-to argument used to criticize  overzealous displays of spirit. I never quite understood how and why this preposterous fallacy gained popularity, because I have never been to a Tam sporting event that was “just a game.” Quite frankly, Tam sports would be borderline boring if it wasn’t for the camaraderie and energy that the student-fans create. Their rowdy behavior, however, has been met with plenty of criticism.

The January 16 matchup at Redwood on the hardwood generated conversation well before the night of the game. In the days leading up to the event, administration and parents were busy doing their part to ensure that the visiting crowd would be respectful.

The fuss was not unwarrented, as there were already complaints coming over allegedly “obscene” chants from the Tam crowd during an outstanding road win over Marin Catholic on January 11. Of those chants, “We let gays in” was among the most controversial. This particular cheer stems from a 2015 incident in which, according to the SF Chronicle, “a group of Marin Catholic nuns walked out of their classes to protest the sponsors of a program intended to protect gay and lesbian teens from bullying.”

I agree that the chant itself is crass and disrespectful. But MC wants to prevent this offensive chant, a perfect resolution would be to support students of all sexual orientations. I’m sure the nuns can find a way to manage such an “inconvenience.”

It’s safe to say that going into the Tam-Redwood matchup, the Tam students had already garnered quite the rowdy reputation. That reputation didn’t improve over the course of the game.

By the end of the night, around 20 of the visiting bleachers were destroyed. This is not, by any means, a good look for our fanbase, and the outrage we received from administration was extensive. Destroying the property of another school during a visiting basketball game is not something I, or any Tam fan, would be quick to support.

No one showed up to the game with the intention to smash some seats that night. Yet I can’t help but wonder if the crowd was really to blame for the incident. The students that broke bleachers that night have attended many other basketball games at many other facilities, including Marin Catholic, Drake, College of Marin, and even our own. At each of those games, the crowd was just as rowdy, just as loud, and jumped just as high as the crowd at the Redwood game. Yet no other bleachers were broken. With the exception of three seats in our own Gus Gym, the only bleachers that have broken during my four years at Tam have been in one gym: Redwood.

Some may point out the fact that, after the bleachers began to crack and give way, the students made no attempt to prevent further destruction, and continued to cheer with the same physicality and energy that led to the damage. In perfect honesty, it was painful to continue our cheering knowing that with every jump, we were that much closer to a possibly fatal accident. But Tam students aren’t selfish. We knew that the team depended on the support that we provide, and like all selfless beings, we risked our ankle bones in the hopes that our cheers would give strength to our Hawks out on that court.

As I said earlier, I think I speak for everyone in the senior class when I say that we don’t want to see any more broken bleachers. I believe that, when it comes to the construction of the Redwood bleachers, corners have been cut. I fear that the shoddy quality of these seats not only serves an inconvenience to the school after they are broken, but more importantly, poses a serious and immediate threat to the safety of the students and parents attending Redwood basketball games.

Marin Catholic may have some less-than-tolerant faculty members, but they make some damn fine bleachers. I pray that Redwood administration follows suit, and provides its fans with a safe and reliable standing area. If they don’t, I fear that many an ankle will be lost to the treacherous death trap they call stands. Let’s hope that recent incidents serve as an ominous warning of injuries to come, and the school takes action. Before it’s too late. ♦