Saturday, May 19, 2007

THE CITY DESK - Rory Riddler

Cow Bell Rattle Is Call-To-Arms At High School Event

Now I know why they don’t serve beer at High School sporting events.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Let’s start with how a cow bell came to be at the center of a near death defying trip to a high school sporting event. In retrospect I should have been expecting trouble. We all know how rowdy the crowds can get at women’s junior varsity soccer events.

It was the last away game on one of the few sunny days of the 24 game season. As a soccer dad coming from a parochial school background, it had taken me most of the season to get use to the more aggressive physical contact on the field between players. But some fans at one area high school seemed prepared to extend that physical contact to those sitting in the stands as well.

To protect the innocent let’s just say the game was held at a fictional school I’ll call Wort Zumfalt North. That should throw the lawyers off.

The game was held on what had to have been a practice field at best. The stands are set into the side of what looked like a levee with a moat between us and a track. Then there was a second “drainage ditch” between the track and the field.

The problem is that the out of bounds line was at the bottom of this inner moat, so that approximately three feet of playing area, on both sides of the field, are at a 45 degree angle.

How this passes anyone’s safety regulations is beyond my comprehension. Players are expected to be running flat out to stop a ball at the line only to have the earth drop out from under them. There were plenty of falls, the cause of which was “painfully” obvious to everyone. Despite this badly engineered excuse for a trip to the ER, the game went on.
One of the St. Charles parents, brought an innocent looking cow bell to the game. This they had occasion to ring when our team would score. Though ring isn’t quite the right word for a cow bell. It’s more like a clacking or clunking.

Though not used incessantly or in what I thought of as an offensive manner, the cow bell nonetheless engendered the most hostile feelings from supporters of the home team. It began with a woman yelling at the owner of the cow bell if he knew how “blinkity-blank” annoying that thing was. Gee, I bet it never crossed his mind and thanks for sharing that.
A while later she pressed the point by threatening to call the police as she felt there must be an ordinance against ringing a cow bell in public.

Let’s see. I have a set of O’Fallon ordinances here in my pocket. Cow tipping seems to be a definite infraction. Cow chip throwing from a moving vehicle seems to be prohibited as well. Nope, nothing about cow bells.
Of course the grousing only encouraged louder vocalization in support of good plays by the St. Charles team. That’s when one Wort Zumfalt North fan lost it.

His arms covered in tattoos, a Wort Zumfalt North fan turned around and yelled to the exuberant St. Charles fan that he should shut the @#%! up. That’s when the two coaches and the girls on the bench slowly turned around to watch the fans in the stand instead of the game on the field.

Now in his defense, this St. Charles fan had only been yelling positive encouragement for his own team and had not booed or said anything disparaging about the other team. But being the bearer of the cow bell made him a singular target for the wrath of the opposing team’s overly aggressive fans.

The verbal exchange that erupted between these individuals gave me momentary pause to note the nearest exits. I had almost settled on who to use for a human shield, when a moment of sanity broke out. An older and wiser Wort Zumfalt North fan tapped the tattooed man on the arm with some timely advice. She pointed out the disparity in the relative height and weight between this fan and the man he was challenging.

The now famous Battle of the Cow Bell was over. The crisis had been averted. We all made it out of Wort Zumfalt North alive. Sure there is the battle fatigue to deal with, the waking up in the middle of the night screaming for someone to save the cow bell, but we won and that’s what high school sports is all about anyway.

Of course, for fans of Saturday Night Live this incident is a great example of life imitating art. Comedic actor Will Ferrell once played a character in a sketch who rang a cow bell at the drop of a hat. When others expressed their annoyance, his punch line was, “I’ve got a fever and the only thing that will cure it is…more cow bell!”

I half expected to wake up the next day and read in the newspaper, “Entire City of O’Fallon Awoken At 5 PM By Cow Bell – Police Seek Suspect.”