Cling-clang of cowbells coming back to Cassville

Thursday, August 20, 2015

District lifts ban on decades-old tradition

After a five-year drought, the familiar cling-clang of cowbells will once more be heard from the stands at Cassville sporting events.

On Thursday, Cassville Athletic Director Doug Martin lifted the ban on artificial noisemakers at all Wildcat football games. In short, Martin's action meant the return of more cowbell to the stands.

"I received a call on behalf of some fans wanting to know if the school would reconsider reversing its policy," Martin said. "MSHSAA's (Missouri State High School Activates Association) rule book stated that cowbells are permitted under their rules. Of course, schools have the right to limit such devices, but I personally didn't have an issue with them."

After consulting with Lance Parnell, football coach, and multiple adminstrators, including Superintendent Richard Asbill, no objections were raised.

"We are going to give it a shot," Martin said. "I wasn't here when the original rule was enacted, so I am not familiar with the ban's history. As long as our fans are respectful and use the cowbells in a manner that is not annoying, rude or cause issues in the stands, we will allow them."

According to Steve Reid, a life-long Wildcat supporter, the ringing tradition dates back more than half a century.

"The tradition goes back to the 1950s," he said. "As a child, I can recall watching my father and his other Wildcat Booster Club friends enthusiastically clanging the cowbells for the players. Later, when I played in high school, I always enjoyed hearing that familiar sound of pride coming from the Wildcat fans.

"The sound of cowbells in a stadium full of Wildcat fans is a fond memory for many fans and players alike. Players love to play for their fans, and fans live to show love for their players. Making noise is a great way to let the players know you are a proud fan."

In 2010, the familiar noise stopped when a problem arose.

According to Reid, the cowbells weren't the culprit. Instead, it was an instrument popularized by soccer's 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa -- the vuvuzela.

"People complained because of one person using a vuvuzela a few years ago, and the district banned all noisemakers," Reid said. "The horns are obnoxious and cause injury to ears. They are rightfully banned. Even [FIFA] has now banned them [from World Cup tournaments]."

The school's blanket prohibition ended one nuisance, but encompassed the cowbell tradition as well.

"I recall, [as a player], hearing the cowbells ringing in the stands telling the players that the fans were excited and proud of their team," Reid said. "Even today, top football programs like Webb City, Lamar, Seneca, Logan-Rogersville, Monett, and many others are proud of their fans with cowbells."

Martin said the district will use MSHSAA's standards when governing noisemakers at its events.

Per the Association's board policy, cowbells are permissible at baseball, cross-country, football, soccer, softball and track events. The only football game where cowbells are not allowed is the state championship game.

"We want our fans to have a great time at our athletic events," Martin said. "Every time I hear the word cowbell, I think of the Saturday Night Live skit with Christopher Walken. As long as they aren't a nuisance, I don't see why we can't give our fans more cowbell."

The fever Walken described in that famous skit, at least at Cassville, will see its prescription filled for now.

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