Why should law enforcement be needed at games?

The Elk River boys’ basketball team traveled to Park Center High School on Friday, Feb. 17. The game was a real thriller, with the Elks ultimately losing to the Pirates in overtime. The featured story from the game, however, had little to do with the action on the floor.

Unfortunately, the efforts of the athletes on the floor were overshadowed by conflicts between fans.

Approximately halfway through the first half, an altercation developed between a group of Elk River and Park Center fans. The conflict, which began as a shouting matching between two fans, quickly escalated into a shoving match involving a handful of people from both sides. The dispute became so explosive that the officials were forced to halt play so that Brooklyn Park police officers could intervene. Authorities separated the quarreling fans and violence was avoided; however, the tumult continued throughout the game.

Later in the first half, the Park Center head coach erupted at the officials because of a questionable call, and was then ejected from the game. His outburst fanned the already fiery temper of the Park Center crowd, and Park Center fans immediately began shouting disparaging comments at the officials. Then, the Park Center student section chimed in with various obscene chants. In the second half, the Park Center fans started berating the officials so harshly that the officials had to suspend play for a second time so that the Brooklyn Park police officers could subdue the protesters.

Why does this all matter? Because the scene of this chaos was a high school basketball game. Yes, people get rowdy. Yes, coaches get passionate. And, yes, fans badger officials (I’ve certainly been guilty of it once or twice). But, at the end of the day, the game is just that — a game. High school sports offer a rare outlet where our young people can develop physically, mentally, and psychologically. We attend these events to support our community and, more importantly, to encourage our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends. The incidents that occurred at Park Center High School on Friday night were counter-productive to that purpose.

When such conflict and hostility emerges from a simple high school basketball game, there are several questions we must consider, namely: Why travel to sites which foster such turmoil? Although all of Friday night’s skirmishes were effectively quelled by Brooklyn Park police officers, should a high school basketball game really require the services of law enforcement? Is a basketball game really worth risking potential violence? Extending from these questions and others, I implore the athletic directors of the Northwest Suburban Conference to convene to address the poor behaviors which were exhibited at Park Center High School. Moving forward, perhaps some schools need to be boycotted until they address such procedural shortcomings. — Jansen Werner, Elk River