There are lines in life. The trick is knowing when you've crossed them.
The trick is also knowing when you've not only not crossed them, but are at least six counties away from them.
And so we come to the good folks who run high school athletics in Wisconsin, where the spirit of friendly rivalry in athletic competition has now been deemed a Line That Shall Not Be Crossed. According to these muttonheads, the mournful, time-honored chant "Airball ... airball" is "unsporting." Ditto other time-honored chants such as "Scooooreboard," "You can't do that" and "Season's o-ver" for those occasions when one team eliminates another from the state tournament.
At the risk of offending anyone in Wisconsin, I would say the muttonheads (Violation!) just shot an "Airball ... airball." (Second violation! Report to the principals' office immediately!)
Seriously, now. How much more fun can the Fun Nazis bleed out of what's supposed to be an enjoyable pastime? (Fun Nazis?! Third violation! You're out! Finished at Faber!)
Look. To reiterate, we all know where the lines are in life. You don't target individual kids for verbal abuse in games. You don't hurl personal, individualized insults. These are, truly, unsportsmanlike, not to say sociopathic. Anyone caught doing so should be immediately escorted from the premises.
But, seriously. "Airball ... airball"?
I can't conceive how that could ever damage anyone's self-esteem, even the kid who hoisted the airball. Five will get you 10 he's probably chanted it himself. Five will get you 10 he's chanted things a lot meaner.
So I hardly think the kid's life will be ruined by it, or even the next 10 seconds of the kid's life. And the consequence of thinking otherwise is that our games (at least in Wisky) will devolve into beige displays with all the emotional intensity of a John Stuart Mill reading.
One of the great enjoyments of covering high school sports over the years was listening to the inventive ways the student sections used to get after their rivals. I still remember the sectional game in which an overmatched Hamilton team hung with the Luke Recker-led DeKalb Barons early, prompting the Hamilton student section to chant "Over-rated!" The DeKalb kids instantly came back with the kicker: "Never rated!"
Quality stuff. And as far as I know, no one on either team was unduly traumatized.
Which makes me happy I won't be attending any games in Wisconsin, where airballs will now presumably be met with chants of "Vaaa-liant tryyy-y." And, instead of "You can't do that" when an opponent commits a foul, gyms in Wisconsin ring to stirring cries of "We believe a violation of the rules has occurred! We believe a violation of the rules has occurred!"
(If that's not too unsporting).
Update: So, apparently students at a recent Wisconsin HS basketball game mocked the athletic association with a sarcastic chant of "Let's go BOTH TEAMS!" Awesome.