'Amsterico' chants part of troubling pattern

It was the end of the third quarter at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School on Saturday and things weren't going very well on the field for the Amsterdam High School football team.

BH-BL, playing in front of a large homecoming crowd, was executing its game plan to perfection, scoring points in bunches and defensively having its way against the Rugged Rams.

Our Adam Shinder reported on the 49-0 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake victory with the details appearing in his story published in the sports section of today's edition of The Recorder.

The content here is less about the X's and O's and more about what is a troubling pattern in competitive sports.

The Burnt Hills win was marred by a rather large group of racially insensitive youngsters, who unleashed cheap shots on the very foundation of what this city was built on years ago -- its rich diversity.

The target was Amsterdam's Hispanic population.

The chants?

"Amsterico." "Amsterico." "Amsterico."

I'll admit that I'm biased here. Amsterdam is where I live, it is where my kids attend school, and it's also where I work.

It can't be any more personal than this.

I know some good people, both professionally and personally, who live and work in Burnt Hills and I have been friends with them for many years. But what took place in the school's student section on Saturday set that district back 50 years.

They chanted "Amsterico, Amsterico, Amsterico," laughed, chanted some more, and, of course, laughed even more.

They thought they were Duke's Cameron Crazies, but ended up sounding like the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake bigots.

These weren't kids being kids. This was a group of high school kids reacting to a learned behavior; and, sadly, showing off their prejudice on the biggest stage of the 2013-14 school year at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.

It got so bad that Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake head coach Matt Shell, one of the classiest men you will ever meet, was forced to take his headphones off, march to the school's public-address system, and ask tomorrow's leaders to stop. He threatened to end the game if the chant continued.

Just minutes before the "Amsterico" chant, the school's marching band played a song with the students chiming in once the music stopped and chanted, "You suck, you suck" -- all directed toward Amsterdam.

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake administration did nothing about it Saturday, although the district reportedly plans to address the matter Tuesday.

This is the same school that left the Lynch Literacy Academy football field last season, fuming after its athletic director Robert McGuire confronted a referee and coaches during the handshake line and behaved in a way that had sprinklings of long-time college basketball coach Bobby Knight. There were verbal exchanges but no punches thrown.

The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake administration did nothing about it.

This is the same school that had its girls soccer coach Brian Bold allegedly call the Bethlehem girls soccer team derogatory names and said "(expletive) you" to at least one player in 2009.

This time, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake administration did something about it.

They rehired Bold to coach girls soccer.

I would say that we have a pattern going on here.

Oh, one more thing.

It also appears that some facets of the BH-BL alumni have showered support for the actions of the student section.

Dylan Wydronkowski, one of the top players to ever wear a BH-BL football uniform and now a redshirt freshman at Stetson University, tweeted "Burnt Hills chanting Amsterico" followed by three smiley faces.

The district must do something here and make it public without naming names because an entire city was ridiculed. There were more video cameras and smart phones in operation at the Amsterdam vs. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake football game than at most small-school graduations. Punishment needs to be swift and firm. Too bad the youngsters can't be bused into Amsterdam this Saturday to observe how fans should act at homecoming, or watch how a marching band displays professionalism and character. Even better, the BH-BL administrators should tag along to see how crowd control is performed, because Amsterdam gets some of the largest crowds in all of upstate New York and school officials work Friday nights to perfection.

The incident that took place this past Saturday could have ignited skirmishes and fights with the finished product heading over to YouTube and ultimately the courts.

Burnt Hills likely won't be playing Amsterdam in football again until next fall, when the two would meet at Lynch Literacy Academy.

Just a few words of caution:

Don't even think about it.

PAUL ANTONELLI is sports editor of The Recorder. Contact him at paul.antonelli@recordernews.com.