Coaching and fandom. Serious business.

When one watches sports live, it’s sometimes more interesting to observe the coaches and the crowd rather than to watch the game itself. It adds an extra layer or two to the experience.

I went to two different basketball games on Saturday, and both games made me feel that maybe I was only just a passive observer in both parties’ crazed little world of sports fandom.

First, I watched the USD men play Valley City State (ND). The game itself was pretty much over before the end of the first half, as USD simply outran the Vikings. What made the game memorable, however, were the reactions from Valley City’s coach throughout the game. His team would eventually lose by nearly 30 points, but he incessantly yelled at the refs throughout the game for (admittedly often) bad or missed calls. His whining was far more entertaining than the game itself, especially when anyone in the DakotaDome could hear him due to very few fans showing up to watch the game. The coach’s “Oh GOSH DARNIT!” and paraphrased variations of “I wouldn’t be yelling so much if you’d actually make those calls!” were all the entertainment I needed.

One of the refs gave Valley City’s coach a severe warning and told him to back off or there would be more trouble. I personally think the only reason the coach didn’t get ejected because the game itself was way out of hand. Why toss a coach out when his team is losing by 20 to 30 points with a few minutes left when it would be considered nothing but a hilarious (but ultimately pointless) use (abuse?) of power?

Later that night, I went to the Summit Activities Center to watch the Gazelles play Huron. Huron’s coach was a beast both in the way he looked and the way he yelled at his players during every play. Do the Huron girls truly know what he’s talking about? How do they react to his consistent yelling? There were several times in which he would yell at specific players right in front of their faces! I would be personally horrified to play under this coach in any circumstance, never mind the fact he was coaching high school girls! P&D assistant sports editor Jeremy Hoeck and I both agreed he likely came from a football coaching background, and sure enough…we spotted a Huron football jacket on the sidelines that might have been his.

Both of us watched the game near the visitors’ section, and the Huron fans, many of them grown adults, were just about as crazy as the coach! Let’s take a step back and realize that this is girls’ basketball. An early-season game! High school! Girls’ basketball! It’s not really all that important! Right?

Both the coach and the fans would yell at the refs over supposedly blown calls, cheer when the Gazelles missed a shot or caused a foul and went absolutely nuts when Yankton’s final three-point shot at the buzzer wasn’t enough to win the game. It sounded somewhat like Huron had just won a playoff game against the Gazelles, only the team and its fans didn’t storm the court after the buzzer. Because, you know, good sportsmanship and everything.

Yet funny enough, while waiting for Jeremy to finish up his interviews, I randomly chatted with the Huron coach and found him to be a pretty mellow guy. Maybe it was because his team had earned a well-fought win, maybe it was because the game was over and he needed to relax. But he came off as a totally different person after the game.

What makes coaches and fans come off as crazy people like both examples today? Was I simply too passive in comparison because I really didn’t have a rooting team? Was it because while I love sports and root for certain teams all the same, I’m not nearly as emotionally attached?

Whatever the case, both games on Saturday were fascinating experiences to me. Now if only the Gazelles could play a game that didn’t end in such a heartbreaking defeat.

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