Over the years, I have wondered what has happened to the crowds at high school basketball.
You have to remember, I grew up watching the Anderson County Bearcats in the late 60s and early 70s. I can remember getting to games two hours before tipoff just to get a seat to watch Jimmy Dan Conner and company. Even when I was in high school a few years later, gyms were largely packed when the games tipped off.
I began writing in 1985 and the trend toward smaller crowds had begun to take hold. Even though I have attended far too many games when I could count the crowd during timeouts — really, I have done that a few times — there are times when I am simply blown away by what I have experienced.
Such was the case last Thursday when I attended a girls’ basketball game at Spencer County High School when Anderson County came to town.
Simply put, the Spencer fans turned out in a big way.
I don’t know if it is always like that for the Lady Bears’ program but it looked like every seat on the home side was taken. A good number of Spencer fans were sitting behind the home team’s bench cheering the Bears on.
The band was rocking and the fans were loud.
My hat is off to them.
Anderson County still prevailed, 54-47, in a battle of two of the Eighth Region’s best teams.
But it was undoubtedly the best atmosphere I have experienced at a girls’ basketball game in several years. The girls don’t usually draw as well as the boys — that’s a shame, really — but that’s just the case at most schools.
I wish I could say crowds have always been great at Spencer or any other school but I can’t. Most high schools have years when few show up at the games. This year, Spencer fans are rightly excited because this is probably the best Spencer County girls’ team I have seen. The fans turned out to encourage them against a program that has not lost to Spencer since the 2001-02 season.
As I was working the game, I was struck by just how hard both teams went at it but how clean it was. That’s not to say there were not coaches or players upset with the officials or with each other, but that kind of thing was remarkably quiet for an intense district game. After the final horn, the players and coaches from both teams joined for a prayer, led by one of the Spencer players.
In a sports world dominated by negative headlines, it was just refreshing to see such a hard-fought game staying inside the boundary lines.
And as I headed home, one other thing hit me: The way that crowd got behind the Spencer team, or the way any crowd supports its team is a picture of what the Bible says Christians are to be like.
Galatians 6:2 says we carry each other’s burdens. Acts 4 says the earliest Christians were “one in heart and mind.” I Thessalonians 5 says to encourage each other. Barnabas was known for his encouragement.
To be sure, when we go to any ball game, there will be times we are not encouraging. We will wonder why the refs are picking on us — really, they aren’t — and there will be times we lose our temper.
But we attend games usually to cheer on our favorites.
Let’s cheer each other on in a battle that lasts much longer but has much greater reward than district supremacy.
Keep on for Him!