At the end of the day, it's still just a game

A little more than a half-an-hour after the Douglas boys' basketball team managed to hang on for an exciting 59-46 win over Carson last Friday night, things turned ugly on the county line.

Douglas County Sheriff's deputies responded to a fracas that some reporting callers claimed was on the verge of a riot between Carson and Douglas students at 9:10 p.m. at the Carson Valley Plaza in the general area of In-N-Out Burger.

Initial reports were that 50 to 75 teenagers were involved, but a later call estimated the number closer to 100.

Deputies from Carson City also responded and the fight was broken up without any claimed injuries or victims.

The size of the fight, though, was what left the most disturbing impression.

"That's a large number of kids involved," Douglas County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said. "We were just fortunate there were no weapons involved. These things tend to escalate quickly and it doesn't take much for someone to be seriously injured.

"If someone brings a baseball bat or a tire iron, or God forbid a gun, into the mix, that changes things quickly. Our main concern was that someone might be seriously injured or even killed."

This is the second notable fight between Carson and Douglas students this school year alone.

During the schools' matchup at Manogue High School during football season, a Carson student found his way into the Douglas student section and was violently ejected out of it. From all appearances, he didn't find his way in by mistake.

Somewhere along the way, school rivalry boundaries became much less about the actual game and more about the turf.

Seemingly regardless of the scoreboard, the student sections from both schools over the past several years have started volleying verbal chant assaults across the gym at each other during games ranging in extremes from "White trash" and "STDs" to flat-out expletives and vulgarities.

And before each game, the public address announcer at each school faithfully reads the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association's policy on sportsmanship, including the threats to eject anyone in violation. And, generally, anyone that can be isolated is thrown out for vulgarities.

What is becoming increasingly popular, however, is for an entire section of students to join en masse with vulgar or inflammatory chants directed at the other school, or sometimes a single athlete.

And while when carried on long enough, an administrator will step in to quell a chant, very rarely can anything be done to single anyone out for causing the disturbance.

So what is the lesson learned? Get enough numbers on your side and you are untouchable.

Which is the very logic that feeds mob violence.

There is no official report on what sparked the fight Friday night, but it's reasonably safe to say someone was either being a poor winner or sore loser and someone else took exception to it.

It was a game played by teenage boys that were probably nowhere near the In-N-Out Burger Friday night, but someone thought they could take ownership over what happened on the floor, something they likely had nothing to do with, and use it as a basis to prove their superiority over someone else.

Ironically, at halftime Friday night, a student dressed as a Tiger was tackled by a Carson student in front of the Carson student section. Both students were hauled away and there was some speculation that the costumed individual may have actually been a Carson student intending to mock Douglas.

All the same, tempers were already on high during the game and they spilled out far away from either school shortly after.

"It would really be a tragedy for someone's life to be altered physically due to something that just got out of hand," Mezzetta said. "Kids need to keep this stuff on the field or the court, work it out that way, not in an alley in the middle of the night."

It's a fair bet to say this isn't over.

This happened out of the grasp out teachers or coaches, but it could easily escalate through the schools' matchups in the coming years.

Tossing an entire section of kids out of the game Friday night probably wouldn't have prevented what happened later on, but it could make a statement about what will, and what won't be tolerated in the future.

There is still something to be said for true sportsmanship. The responsibility for this to end will ultimately rest on the individual students.

Simply cheering on your own team, choosing not to recognize insults being thrown your direction and if everything else fails, walking away from a volatile situation, could make a world of difference.

It might have even stopped the ugly scar on what was otherwise an entertaining and clean matchup between two good basketball teams.

Time will tell what the Carson-Douglas rivalry will end up being but, judging by the last year, it is on its way to becoming an embarrassing off-the-field blemish after having been one of the state's oldest athletic traditions.


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