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The Oklahoman's 20-40-60 Etiquette---The Men Answer! Gametime for children? How about obscenities?

(Editor’s Note: Oklahoma men columnists answer a question about taking children to a college football game where you know there will be an obnoxious fan cursing excessively nearby. Read the regular 20-40-60 etiquette column by Callie Athey (20s), Lillie-Beth Brinkman (40s) and Helen Ford Wallace (60-plus) on Mondays in The Oklahoman and online at To ask an etiquette question, email Wallace at

QUESTION: This year, I am thinking about taking my son and daughter to a college football game. They are 10 and 8 years old. The only trouble is that the man behind us yells obscenities during the game when one of the players misses a play. This is where we have always had our season tickets, and it does not bother me as much as it used to. They are really good seats! We have all been there several years.

But, do you think I should trade tickets and not expose our children to this, or should I hope that he tones it down because of the children? What age do you think that children should allowed to attend football games?

ADAM KEMP, 20s, general assignments reporter for The Oklahoman: I went to my first football game was when I was 9 years old. My dad took me to watch the Sooners face off against the Syracuse Orangemen, who were led by future NFL star Donovan McNabb.

Here’s what I remember from that game: The atmosphere of game day, people tailgating and the delicious smell of food before entering the stadium. The sense of excitement as you would walk around outside and hear people starting “Boomer Sooner.”

I remember feeling the rush of being a part of thousands of people cheering and singing the fight song together, but mostly I remember the excitement I felt watching a game with my dad, not knowing that it would eventually become a regular autumn activity that the two of us still do together today.

I’m sure, as any football game seems to have them, that we were surrounded by a few loud idiots who yelled obscenities at 20-year-old kids playing a game, but those memories do not stick with me.

If someone is truly out of line, stadium attendants are always standing nearby. Concentrate on your kids, show them by example how to behave and have fun, and they might cherish the day for a long time to come.

FORD SANGER, 30s, local businessman: I would not let someone’s actions dictate your actions, especially when it comes to spending time with your children.

Unfortunately, there are all kinds of people that attend sporting events, and many of these people fall emotionally invested to the point they need to make a fool of themselves.

I would do the following: Advise your children of the atmosphere and how you expect them to behave. Use the guy that is over emotionally involved as an example of what not to do. If it got to the point of overly excessive, I would either say something or talk to a stadium usher.

You paid money for the tickets, and that is what they are there for. Enjoy the time with your children and use every good and bad experience as a teaching opportunity.

BRAD MCNEILL, 40s, owner, A&B Paving: By all means, take them to the game. This is one of the simple joys of American life ... football!

However, I wouldn’t have any expectations of fans “toning it down” during a college game. This is called life. Sooner or later your kids will hear foul language. You can’t hide them from the world.

You may talk with them about it before the game, explaining how some fans may say bad words and how they may be frustrated or even angry. By explaining the context of the curse words you can allow your children to make sense of what is going on.

This will manage their expectation going in so they won’t be so shocked. Use it as a teachable moment on what you expect from your kids and their behavior. I took my 10-year-old son to a game last year, and people were yelling and cussing all around us, so it’s going to happen. We both kind of laughed about it and didn’t make it a big deal. My son and I talked about it after the game, and he realized how silly people sound cussing out loud in a public space.

As far as what age to take children to a football game, it always depends on how long you think the game will hold their attention. If your kids don’t like football, then what’s the point of taking them? If they love it, then it doesn’t matter how old they are.

SCOTT KINNAIRD, 50s, executive chairman, A La Mode Inc.: Children that age have already heard obscenities at school. So, you can warn them about the idiot at the football game who behaves like the foulmouthed kids at school. He actually provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the fact that foul language is powerless and meaningless until you give it power and meaning.

If it gets too bad at the game, they can turn around and stare at the man, and if he has any decency at all he’ll stop. If he doesn’t, you’ve shown them an excellent example of how not to behave as an adult.

BERRY TRAMEL, 50s, columnist for The Oklahoman: I think it depends on what kind of personality you perceive the guy has. Does he just lose his head in the heat of battle? If so, you probably could reason with him before the game, explaining you’ve brought your children to this game and would ask that he watch his language. Or is the guy just a knucklehead? A loser who has no concern for others? If so, I wouldn’t take them. I wouldn’t take myself. I’d tell the university to get me seats as good, elsewhere. I don’t believe in putting yourself or your children into volatile situations.

RON JAMES, 60s, independent oil producer: As far as the minimum age to watch college football, seems to me that 8 and 10 are certainly old enough. However, I do wonder about having the children sit in one place for three or four hours; plus, the stadium is not always a happy place!

The guy that screams obscenities needs to be “called out” for his immaturity. Unfortunately, he needs to be confronted in person. And I’m sure the crowd around you will help you score your point.


Helen Ford Wallace

Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for... Read more ›