Cling-clang of cowbells makes its return to Cassville

Wednesday, August 26, 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 cowbells 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 Activities 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 administrators, 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."

No fan was anymore elated to hear that cowbells were back than Cassville super fan Alan Howerton.

Howerton graduated from Cassville in 1983 and was a three-year starter for the Wildcat football team. He fondly recalled hearing the cowbells cheer on his team.

After graduation, he became a fan, taking his place in the stands to cheer on the next generation of Cassville players.

However, his voice began to fade because of laryngeal cancer, eventually resulting in him being silenced by a total laryngectomy.

Yet, he still had a cheering outlet.

"I enjoyed ringing the cowbell a lot on Friday nights," Howerton said. "With the cowbell, I can get loud when the crowd is getting loud. You want to yell with the crowd, but that's a little hard for me."

Howerton now has a new reason to don the black and gold and he hopes the tradition will spread to the next generation of fans.

"I think noisemakers in general are a great part of high school football," he said. "What I really hope is that the student body buys into it and brings cowbells, tambourines, thunder sticks or whatever. That's who really needs to get fired up in Wildcat Nation. Personally though, I'll have mine."

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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