Minimizing Conflict: Separating Home and Away Fans

By Peter Schwartz | Posted 4/20/2021

I’m pretty sure I was the first visiting parent to arrive on Saturday morning as my son’s high school football team concluded their season with a road game. After parking my car, I walked around until I arrived at the bleachers.  When I finally saw a member of the school’s security staff, I asked him where the visiting fans should sit since there were bleachers only on one side of the field.

I took a seat at around the 45-yard line and watched my son’s team go through warmups. As kickoff approached, more spectators arrived and when they asked where to sit, they were told the same thing as I was told, “Sit anywhere.”  

In New York State, COVID-19 protocols allow a maximum of two spectators per student-athlete so there was plenty of room to spread out throughout the bleachers. As the home spectators began to arrive, there didn’t seem to be a problem until one parent began to voice opposition to seeing a cluster of blue and red sitting among those wearing orange.

The parent just wouldn’t stop insulting the visiting spectators to the point where a parent from my son’s team turned around and gave that person a dose of reality.

As it began to escalate, words were exchanged back and forth over something so unbelievably silly. It was a JV football game, and the bleachers were quite big…I would say stretching from 20-yard line to 20-yard line and maybe more than that. There was plenty of room for social distancing, but this parent just couldn’t accept that there were visiting fans sitting in the “home territory”. She wouldn’t stop complaining and it got to the point where a security guard came over and told her to calm down.

As sad as this may sound, I now truly believe that all high schools should have bleachers on both sides of the field to separate the home and away spectators. I’m not saying that what happened at my son’s game on Saturday would happen at other schools but given everything that is going on in the world, I think all schools would do themselves, as well as the spectators, players, coaches and staff, a big favor by separating the fans.

What that spectator, and I’ll just assume she was a parent of a player on the home team, did on Saturday created a very uncomfortable situation for the visiting spectators. I was sitting with the father of one of my son’s teammates and we just kept looking at each other every time she spoke. I mean, we were at a high school football game and we should all be thrilled that there was even a season. And as her words escalated, it just created an unnecessary back and forth between the spectators of both schools during the course of the game.

The best way to handle a situation like that would be for a school to have bleachers on each side of the field. If that’s not possible, then there has to be a reserved part of the one bleacher that is reserved for visiting spectators and that has to be enforced. What I saw and heard on Saturday was a shame and it should be avoided in the future.

Peter is a sports anchor for the CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio in New York.  His son Bradley is a freshman in high school and is a participant in the U.S. National Team program while his younger son Jared enjoys playing flag football.   Peter, his wife Sheryl and the boys are busy cheering on the New York Jets when they’re not at a high school or flag football field.