HILLARY SMITH: Can safety remain in pure athletics?

2013-01-20T20:30:00Z 2013-01-21T20:37:51Z HILLARY SMITH: Can safety remain in pure athletics?Hillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
January 20, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

At a high school basketball game in Chicago last week, there was enough pushing and shoving in the postgame handshake line to force suspensions for the next game.

But that's not what made the Simeon vs. Morgan Park game front-page news. The melee spilled into the parking lot, where a 17-year-old boy who was reportedly running from the fight was shot and killed.

Chicago State University, which was hosting the game to give the two teams a neutral court, provided enough security that there were searches at the doors to ensure nothing was brought into the game.

A video tape reportedly showed that nothing unusual in the manner of bumping happened during the game on the court, and the cause of the postgame problems isn't known.

When another fight broke out in the stands at the Hammond boys basketball sectional nearly 60 years ago, community leaders — not the schools — created and nurtured the sportsmanship banquet that continues to invite players from schools in Lake and Porter counties to meet and eat before the start of the IHSAA postseason.

Are the community leaders in Chicago doing anything to avoid a repeat of this?

This didn't occur because there wasn't enough security, enough presence of authority, or because a high school was negligent.

I'm not sure there's anyone who can explain why it happened, or how it happened, or how a prep basketball game escalated into gun violence.

I wonder, however, if a crowd melee occurred at the Hammond Sectional in 2013 – or any of our other Northwest Indiana sectionals -- if the response for a sportsmanship banquet would be the same.

Is Indiana really that different from Chicago? Would the first reaction be to point fingers or to find a solution?

I'm not necessarily sure the sportsmanship banquet has brought an end to pushing and shoving in postgame handshake lines in the region. There are still fights; there are still reasons that one team keeps another team off of its schedule.

Each of those incidents is a mark on our record, but with me-first attitudes and an economy in which it's more and more difficult to reallocate funds, a sportsmanship dinner doesn't seem like something that would arise out of a fight today.

Yet we should expect to be able to send our children to a basketball game, no matter where, and see them walk through the door hours later.

Debates about winners and losers should be civil and never need the use of any kind of weapon, be it a gun or a fist or a rolled up program.

High school sports have been lauded as the purest form of athletics, with no money for the players, no incentives, just pride and the pleasure of playing the game.

It should be the same for the fans.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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