Heckling the Other Team's Players is a Valid Way of Supporting Dartmouth

by Jacob Licht | 11/25/98 6:00am

To the Editor:

In Professor Victor Ambros' letter to the editor "Heckling the Other Team's Players is Not Amusing," [Nov. 23, The Dartmouth] he attacks the behavior of two of my friends and me as immoral and dishonorable. He states, "These students think they are funny, but they are a source of shame and embarrassment for Dartmouth coaches, players and fans." Ambzros repeats similar statements that personally attack my friends and me and then concludes the piece with a broad generalization about morality in our Dartmouth community and the social community surrounding us: "We reject this kind of public behavior because it is wrong and because it reinforces Dartmouth's negative national image." In this statement, aside from projecting his particular value system onto mine, Ambros has come to embody a problem that I think needs to be addressed. This is the suffocating and dogmatic nature of political correctness today.

My comments at Chase Field may make fun of a player for tripping on himself, for having bleached blonde hair or for having a last name that sounds like a body function (as mine does). Humor in our culture, whether you are watching "The Late Show with David Letterman," reading Shakespeare or reading a Newsweek cartoon that makes light of adultery in the White House, is often, if not usually, at the expense of someone else. Thus, the "We" that Ambros attempts to be speaking for does not exist. Instead, "We," as Americans, have decided that the right of free speech can protect such "low-grade" humor. Without such protections, our world would be, at best, boring and, at worst, repressive.

Words equal power. Power to persuade, power to offend, power to defend. With this power comes responsibility. To solve the problem of ambiguity that arises when Ambros projects his values onto my heckling requires a balancing test. If Ambros has heard any of my comments from the stands, I would ask him to compare and hopefully distinguish them from a fraternity jacket with a Native-American "warrior" emblazoned on the back or to a "ghetto" party or to the racist legislative history of our public school system. These are the offensive expressions that need to be addressed and attacked through discussion. The proponents of political correctness have too many important fights to wage to waste time on a discussion of something as benign and harmless as soccer heckling.