MONTGOMERY COUNTY. Cruel chants marred an Upper Darby-Lower Merion basketball game last month. Then violence outside an Olney-Frankford contest this month forced Olney’s players to compete in empty gyms for the rest of the year and maybe longer.
And while school officials responded to both embarrassing displays of fandom quickly — Upper Darby and Lower Merion officials have promised no repeat when the teams meet in a rematch tonight — one longtime high school basketball coach said bad attitudes in the stands have grown worse.
“It’s got increasingly worse than it used to be,” said Bill Gaffey, a basketball coach for 28 years who now runs pahoopsorg. “Teams used to have jeers and such but nothing as derogatory as ethnic or religious. The principals and athletic directors are to blame. At some of these schools, they don’t want to do their jobs of monitoring closely all activities.”
A school spokesman said Upper Darby students who reportedly directed anti-Semitic jeers including “Warm up the ovens” at Lower Merion fans were disciplined. Lower Merion officials said they punished the fans that brought posters that labeled Upper Darby as “Upper Dirty.”
Students from the two schools have also met twice to discuss respect and sensitivity since the Dec. 15 game.
“There is a certain amount of banter between fans at any sporting event and they can typically keep that self monitoring but that night it escalated to a point that was completely unacceptable,” Upper Darby spokeswoman Dana Spino said. “We took it very seriously and don’t think there will be any repeat [tonight].”