March 16, 2006

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Anyone that has watched more than a game or two of basketball is familiar with the term air ball. Anyone whose played the game more than once or twice has undoubtably shot one. I know I have offered up more than my fair share of field goal attempts that not only donít go in the basket, they miss the rim, the entire backboard and everything else, hitting nothing but air Ė hence the term air ball.

Obviously it is not your goal as a basketball player to produce an air ball (otherwise Iíd be starring in the NBA right now) but letís face it Ė air balls happen to us all. Even Michael Jordan had one or two shot attempts that missed everything.

Itís bad enough to shoot an air ball at the Sunday evening pick-up game at the park. Your friends get a little laugh and your defender gets a pat on the back from his teammates for a job well done. Your pride stings a bit, but you know itís all in good fun.

Just imagine what you would feel like in front of a crowd of a few hundred people. Itís human nature to be a bit embarrassed by the misfortune of authoring up the shot. It may have just been an eyelash short of hitting the rim, and you may have had the stateís best defender on you at the time the shot went up. Those factors wonít even get remotely close to the mind of the boisterous fan in the crowd who immediately starts the chant ďAir Ball!, Air Ball!, Air Ball!!!!Ē. I call it a chant, but it is no cheer. Itís simply a taunt, as the chorus chimes in to serenade the shooter and to rub salt into the wound.

Like I said before, having shot my fair share of air balls, this particular cheer draws my ire. Itís no different that a group of readers standing in my office behind me as I type at my computer, shouting ďMisspelling, misspelling, misspelling!Ē

The concept behind the cheer, is to corrupt the shooter. If you taunt him or her with shouts of air ball every time, the psychologist will argue that they will either not shoot anymore, or will be so overcome by their embarrassment that it will adversely effect their future performance, allowing your team to emerge victorious.

While I understand the theory, I canít condone the notion that itís okay to taunt the opposition. What I find most difficult to swallow about this entire plan is the fact that it is normally a bunch of fans who have never put forth the effort to themselves be out on the court making those same shots. The most vocal air ball chanters are typically the ones that couldnít hit the rim or the backboard if they were two steps away from it.

It ranks right up there with chanting ďover-ratedĒ after upsetting an opponent, or singing the ďgood-byeĒ song when a player fouls out of the game. Mom said if you donít have anything good to say about them, then donít say anything at all. Besides, if you are chanting over- rated, doesnít that immediately lessen your accomplishment for beating said team? If they are over-rated, that just means they arenít as good as everyone thinks, meaning you beat a team that you should have beaten, unless you too are over-rated. If you are taking the time to sing goodbye to a player who has just fouled out, you obviously feel like this is improving your chances of winning. No one blames you for being happy, if the opponentís best player is forced to the bench. Theoretically that means our team has a better chance of winning. Donít you think that player already knows that? The horn blows at the scorerís table, the referee raises five fingers to indicate the player has reached the foul limit and is disqualified for the remainder of the contest. The coach motions the player to the bench and makes a substitution. So itís my bet the player knows he or she is done for the night. Do we really need to tell them goodbye?

I donít make this argument to poke fun at these fans. I simply wish to orchestrate the idea that in my book itís not okay to employ this method of cheering. Would you shout, ďYou stink, you stink, you stinkĒ? I hope not. The old saying is donít throw stones if you live in a glass house Ė well donít shout air ball unless youíre willing to stand out there in front of everyone confident enough that youíll make every shot you ever take.

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