Fan Etiquette: How Did the Burning Desire to Win Become the Desire to Burn?

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9780963183453: Fan Etiquette: How Did the Burning Desire to Win Become the Desire to Burn?
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Forword by Steve Kerr Five-time NBA Champion

In 1997, I was fortunate enough to live out every basketball player’s dream. With five seconds left in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, I took a pass from Michael Jordan and knocked down a wide-open jump shot to beat the Utah Jazz and win the championship. I can remember everything about the moment: Phil Jackson drawing up the play in the timeout; Michael Jordan telling me he was going to pass the ball to me; watching the ball in midair after I released it, everything seemingly frozen in time. But what I remember most vividly, and what will stay in my mind forever, is the roar of the crowd as the ball swished through the hoop. 20,000 fans at the United Center created a din that night that still gives me goose bumps just thinking about the moment.

But what if the fans hadn’t been there? What if nobody cared about basketball and no one bothered to watch it on TV or attend the games in person? My ‘moment’ wouldn’t have been such a big deal. I would have made the shot, high-fived my teammates and gone home. No glory, no fame, not much excitement. Just the same feeling your average pickup basketball player feels making a shot down at the YMCA on a Sunday afternoon.

Fans are the lifeblood of college and professional sports. Without the fans, there would be no games. It’s the intensity of the fans—the passions and the fire—that makes sports so entertaining and so fun. Some of my best memories as a sports fan are watching two teams in which I had no interest battling for a game in a sold out, frenzied arena. I cared about the outcome only because of the amazing atmosphere that the fans had created.

Unfortunately, it’s also that passion and intensity that can create some horrible moments for fans and athletes alike. In 1988 when I was a senior at the University of Arizona, I was verbally assaulted before a game by fans in the Arizona State University student sections who stood and mocked me about the death of my father, who had been killed in a terrorist attack in Beirut four years before.

I was so shocked and sickened that I sat through the rest of the warm-up session, crying on the bench as my teammates consoled me. The story became public, and a week or so later I received an unsigned letter from one of the students who had been mocking me. The writer of the letter apologized, but tried to justify his actions saying, "Do you know how painful it’s been to see Arizona athletes being so cocky after beating us over the years?"

I know as a fan how painful it can be when your team loses.

I remember crying when my beloved Dodgers lost the World

Series two years in a row to Reggie Jackson’s Yankees in the late ’70s. My son Nick is the biggest Cubs fan on earth (boy is he in for some pain), and I watch him cry when they lose a big game. I feel for him, but I’m also reminded of how awesome sports are. The passion they elicit among fans is incredible, and that passion provides for so much entertainment. It makes for civic pride, the camaraderie amongst friends, for pride in one’s alma mater. It makes for inspiration, determination and effort. How many kids out there are inspired to do great things after watching a frenzied crowd cheer on an athlete, or a team?

But I don’t care how painful a win or a loss can be. It’s still just that—a game that is either won or lost. And it’s important for every fan to remember to keep that perspective. Yes, we love sports and we want our teams to win, but not at the expense of our care for each other as human beings. I believe that the vast majority of sports fans do understand that perspective. My hope is that those who don’t will eventually get it. Cheer hard, with passion, and hope your team wins. But if they lose, always remember that it’s just a game.

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About the Author:

Dr. Will Keim has lectured to over 2 million students from 1,250 campuses in every state in the nation. He is an NCAA-recognized speaker on life skills and alcohol and drug education issues, and was a four-year Division I letterman in baseball at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Rotary International has named Dr. Keim a Paul Harris Fellow and he is a member of the Order of Omega, Blue Key, and was selected by the United States’ JAYCEES as an Outstanding Young Man of America. Dr. Keim is an Intercollegiate Chaplain for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Corvallis, Oregon. Oregon State University Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils named him Outstanding Professor of the Year for his teaching in the Speech Communication Department. Lou Holtz said, "Will Keim is committed to excellence. He is someone who cares about you. When he speaks, we should all listen." Will is a member of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity and a recipient of the prestigious Jack Anson Award for Interfraternalism from the Association of Fraternity Advisors. Dr. Keim’s other books include: The Education of Character: Lessons for Beginners; Spirit Journey; Life After College: Lessons for Students in Transition; The Truth About College: 50 Lessons for Parents Before They Start Writing Checks; and Wit & Wisdom; and he is a contributing author to Let Your Leadership Speak!; Chicken Soup for the College Soul; Greek Inspirations; and Welcome to the Time of Your Life: Keys to Success in College and Life.

Dr. Keim’s eldest daughter is a Varsity Women’s Ski Team member at Corvallis High School; his middle daughter is an All-Star Softball player, his twins are baseball and soccer, and basketball and softball players, respectively. Will’s wife, Donna,was an all-conference cross-country runner and tennis player at Whittier College and was the first woman selected to the Whittier College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Review:

Fan Etiquette is a great first step towards helping us conquer fan violence. -- Ted Leland, Director of Athletics

Presidents of colleges and universities across the country are concerned with fan behavior. Keim’s book offers worthwhile advice. -- Dave Frohnmayer, President

Will Keim has spearheaded an effort to define reasonable and sportsmanlike conduct for both fans and players alike. -- Mitch Barnhart, Director of Athletics

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