As sports writers we tend to have a unique perspective at games.
Sure, we pull for the local team, but mainly we're just hoping for a good story.
Simply put, we have no investment in the contest.
It allows us to have a somewhat more objective take on things than the average fan.
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But we aren't just watching and assessing the game action.
We sit there absorbing the entire atmosphere around us. Part of the fun of sports is the ambience created by those cheering for them.
Intense games become all the more dramatic when crowds react to the ebb and flow of every single play.
And the blowouts.
A blowout can be made bearable by a raucous, well-informed crowd.
It's a double-edge sword, though.
Great games can be ruined by ignorant fans, or at the very least made average.
That's what happened last Friday night as I witnessed the Livingston boys basketball team host Western Athletic Conference rival Patterson.
It's a shame too, because the stage was set for an epic evening.
There's always electricity in the air when the two WAC basketball powers get together and it becomes down right combustible when both towns are forced to cram into Livingston's field house.
To be fair, the game itself lived up to the anticipation. Both teams exchanged blows until Livingston finally pulled away in the fourth quarter.
The two student sections were equally up to the task, exchanging funny and occasionally clever verbal slaps as the game unfolded.
The only black mark of the evening was a group of Patterson fans -- most of them adults -- that surrounded me and drew my ire.
Before the town of Patterson jumps down my throat, I acknowledge it was just a small portion of fans that made the entire group look bad.
Still, there is a certain decorum that fans should follow in order to make a sporting event an enjoyable experience had by all.
AT LEAST try to be a little bit objective.
I understand that true fans are always going to see things from their own team's perspective.
That's to be expected, and in some cases, commended.
However, that only gives you free rein to argue about the 50-50 calls that don't go your way.
There's nothing more annoying in the stands than a person or group of people that whines about every single call an official makes.
If a guy is already halfway to the ground before any contact is made, it's a flop, not a charge.
If you can't understand what's being said by the person three seats over because of the crowd noise, but still can easily make out the sound of skin being slapped, it's a foul.
Good fans acknowledge when their team screws up and appreciate when the other team makes a good play.
MAKE SURE you're informed.
This goes back to my having no tolerance for bellyaching. If, however, you are going to do it, at least make sure you're getting your facts right.
This behavior tends to creep up when a game is getting away from a team.
In utter desperation, fans begin spouting out anything they can think of to explain how it's not their team's fault.
In the case of the Patterson fans, it was that every call was going Livingston's way.
You've seen this scenario before. Fans cry out in outrage when a call goes the other team's way and give mock applause when a call is made in their team's favor.
Unfortunately, the Patterson fans' case didn't hold any water.
The turnover totals were almost identical for both teams, each squad was called for 25 fouls and Patterson actually went to the free-throw line four more times than Livingston.
Had the fans bothered to pay attention during the game, they might have caught on to that.
HECKLERS MUST be funny.
This, I feel, is the most important rule.
I do not advocate that high school kids should be taunted, but coaches and referees have a little thicker skin.
With that in mind, heckling is a fine art that can add to any game atmosphere and is sometimes all a fan can resort to when their team is outclassed.
What most people don't get is it's about being clever -- not being mean. If you have to resort to a personal attack on someone, you're not particularly witty.
Unfortunately, most of the people you see doing this just want to hear themselves speak.
Here's a good rule of thumb. Take a look around after you make a joke. If the only people giving you a pity laugh are the ones you came with, you're not funny.
A good heckler gets laughs from everyone in the crowd -- regardless of what team they're cheering for -- and can also make fun of their own team when the opportunity presents itself.
As for the Patterson fan who kept shouting at Livingston's Angelo Naldi, "Hey coach, you suck," don't quit your day job.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.