On Friday night, we showed up for a baseball game in Buda and instead we got an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show.”
Let us explain.
Lost in the shuffle was Liberty Hill's exhilarating 14-13 victory over Johnson in its opening-round playoff matchup, as a series of ugly incidents in the stands took center stage for the entire evening.
Here's how it happened.
We arrived early and secured a seat just to the right of home plate and waited for the game to begin under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80s – a lovely night for some playoff baseball.
However, what transpired shortly thereafter was anything but lovely.
In fact, it was downright disgraceful.
About 15 minutes or so before the game, a group of students from Johnson decided to take up residence on the visitors' side of the stands – in other words, the section where all the Panthers supporters that made the trip south were seated.
Liberty Hill athletic director Kent Walker immediately realized this wasn't a good idea and told the students to go back over to their own side, which they did, but only momentarily, as there was already no room on the home side.
So, much to the chagrin of everyone who had been so relieved upon their departure moments earlier, the group of 25 or so teenagers settled in for what would soon erupt into a toxic environment like one we had never before seen at a sporting event of any kind at any level.
Before the first pitch was even thrown and Liberty Hill leadoff man Logan Dyer was announced, one of these “fans” yells out, “YOU SUCK!”
Well, that rightfully didn't sit too well with a Panthers dad, who immediately stood up and told them that wasn't going to happen.
Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Not only did it continue, but the insults being hurled toward the Liberty Hill players on the field took more and more of a personal nature as the first few innings wore on.
You see, thanks to the cesspool that is social media, it's really easy to find out personal information about perfect strangers – things like names of friends, family and also in this case, girlfriends.
When sexually-explicit comments are being made about so-and-so's significant other as far as where she might've been or what she might've been doing the previous night (figure it out for yourself), that's exactly the spark a situation such as this needed to get the fire started and that's exactly what happened.
The first bout of the evening was a shouting match between a Liberty Hill mother and another woman who we think was a Johnson faculty member – a nose-to-nose confrontation over the deplorable antics that were taking place.
But, that was only the beginning.
When another spat broke out shortly after the opener, a pair of Hays County Sheriff's deputies that were working the game descended from their perch up near the press box to intervene.
Mind you, all this was unfolding right in front of us – a ringside seat, if you will.
Once cooler (kind of) heads prevailed, we were able to direct our attention back to the actual game.
But, like a stubborn brush fire that keeps re-igniting, these flames simply refused to be doused.
Walker, in addition to Liberty Hill High School principal Jonathan Bever and ISD superintendent Steve Snell were attempting to broker peace, but to no avail.
After all, it wasn't their venue to police in the first place.
Which led us to ask one very important question.
While all this madness and chaos was going on, where was their AD, their principal or their superintendent?
AWOL – that's where.
But, all that's only the half of it – because it gets much better.
One of the time-honored traditions of high-school varsity sports come playoff time is to call up junior varsity players just to be there and experience what it's going to be like for them when it's their turn to shine in the postseason spotlight.
At some point during the proceedings, one of these Liberty Hill youngsters left the dugout for a quick restroom break.
Only problem was it turned out to be more than quick, as a group of home team ruffians followed him into the restroom and accosted the poor kid, who if course, was minding his own business.
A group of Liberty Hill fathers who were watching the game from a nearby spot along the fence down the left-field line saw what was happening and entered the restroom to break up the altercation.
Once the deputies arrived, some of the peacekeepers were ejected from the premises, while the troublemaking instigators were simply sent back to their seats to wreak more havoc.
We also witnessed a Liberty Hill mom being escorted off by a deputy after she was deemed no longer worthy to attend while all the perpetrators were left to their own devices.
Funny, before every game a seemingly never-ending UIL spiel is announced over the public-address system regarding how we should all behave.
Here's a particularly notable blurb.
“Please assist showing good sportsmanship during the contest by refraining from derogatory remarks or gestures towards participants, coaches, officials or other fans. Thank you for your help and enjoy the fine efforts showcased tonight by these student-athletes.”
Don't know what's more absurd.
The fact we should need such a thing in the first place or the fact once the words drift off into the air, nobody pays attention to them anyway.
In fact, the UIL has a “Sportsmanship Manual,” a 13-page diatribe that covers all the bases (no pun intended) concerning the behavior of everyone at an event from players, parents, students – the hot dog lady at the concession stand – you name it.
Here's a snippet from a section called “Behavior Expectations for Spectators.”
“A ticket is a privilege to observe the contest, not a license to verbally assault others or be generally obnoxious.”
There's an entire section entitled “Crown Control Planning.”
“Seat student groups and spectators in appropriate places. Avoid seating bands or spectators near the visiting team bench and the visiting team seating area.”
“Supervise restrooms. Have personnel in place to identify and discourage any negative behavior that may occur at or around the restroom facilities.”
Got that covered, too.
On and on it goes with some very good ideas that make perfectly-good common sense.
If they're actually implemented, that is.
Here's another gem.
“Act on policies and procedures. When someone is behaving in an undesirable way which violate the rules of good sportsmanship, do something about it. Actions speak louder than words. Inaction allows the establishment of undesirable examples and habits that can lead to more serious problems, and result in negative learning.”
Indeed, there was all kinds of negative learning on this balmy night.
Bottom line is the student section should've been removed from the visitors' side – period.
If there wasn't room on the home side, oh well.
Go stand along the fence or something.
But, like a bad infomercial that just won't end – wait, there's more!
From the “UIL Code of Conduct for Students” under the subheader “Respect.”
“Disrespectful Conduct - Do not engage in disrespectful conduct of any sort including profanity, obscene gestures, offensive remarks, trashtalking, taunting, boastful celebrations or other actions that demean individuals or the sport.”
This part is actually aimed at the athletes themselves, who by the way, were perfectly behaved while near riotous conditions played out before their eyes outside the lines.
One can view the entire manual here and by all means, feel free to insert your own jokes and one-liners.
Someone at Johnson High really needs to click on it.
Speaking of which, who should be held accountable in the aftermath of such wretched events?
Hays ISD failed miserably in upholding the words and standards of the very organization whose umbrella they're under and should be punished accordingly.
One had the feeling it was really going to be on when both sets of supporters made their respective ways to the same parking lot upon the conclusion of the contest.
To that end, the Johnson fans were ushered from the stands first while the Purple-and-Gold faithful were held back from doing so until the coast was clear.
Of course, that was only Game 1 of a best-of-three series that was set to continue the following afternoon in Liberty Hill, which left one to wonder if the shenanigans would carry over.
However, upon our arrival, there was no phalanx of riot police or National Guard troops staged and with good reason, as someone in the know told us.
“Knuckleheads don't travel.”
So, only the well-behaved, real Johnson fans – who by the way, were the vast majority the previous evening – were in attendance.
But, that didn't mean those on the home side who had witnessed the previous night's events weren't still in a state of stunned disbelief over what they experienced.
We really would've liked to talk about what happened on the field in this space.
But, it's too bad what was a highly-entertaining and competitive game between two good teams was completely ruined by something that could've been easily prevented.