Cassville fans miss tradition, 'want more cowbell'

Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Cassville super fan Alan Howerton has been a life-long Wildcat football supporter. Until 2010, Howerton was part of a group of fans that rang cowbells at Cassville games to support the team. Contributed photo

Wildcats faithful want school to 
bring back old 
cheering method

Even though they haven't rang at Wildcat football games for almost four years, there is a movement in the Cassville community to bring back the cowbell to Friday nights.

According to Steve Reid, a life-long Wildcat supporter, the ringing tradition dates back over 50 years.

"The tradition goes back to the 1950s," he said. "Growing up in Cassville in the 1970s, I always looked forward to the Friday night games sitting with my father and his friends who were members of the Wildcat Booster Club. A dozen cowbells clanging in unison meant only one thing -- the Wildcats had scored and the fans were thrilled.

"I remember all the laughs and enthusiasm the cowbells brought to the exuberant Wildcat fans."

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

Ben Abramovitz, in his first year as the Cassville athletic director, said the school does not attempt to define "cheering methods." Rather, the district is asked to address inappropriate behavior or activities that do not adhere to Big 8 sportsmanship expectations.

"The Cassville school district has worked hard over many years to establish consistent sportsmanship standards and expectations of home and away events," Abramovitz said. "In large part, the standards and expectations are a direct result of student, parents, fans, and community opinions about what may be distracting, rude, inappropriate, or an interruption to the event."

The noisemaker ban applies to both home and away games for Wildcats fans.

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."

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."

According to the Missouri State High School Activities

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

Not all Cassville fans miss the noisemakers. A debate on this subject took place last week on the Cassville Wildcats Facebook page -- a site not affiliated with the school, but dedicated to the love of all things Cassville.

"No cowbells? No airhorns? No problem," Wildcat fan Bruce Schiwitz said on the board. "I'm used to going home hoarse on Friday nights. We [fans] are the noisemakers."

Another problem with the "blanket" ban, according to Reid, is that it is has unintentionally silenced the voice of some of the Wildcats' most ardent fans.

Alan 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 the 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, "But, since the ban, I have been known to stomp the bleachers pretty hard just to make some kind of noise for the boys."

Reid and a large block of Cassville Wildcats Facebook page with more than 5,000 followers do not disagree with the entire district policy, they just want a slight amendment to the rule.

Abramovitz admitted he has received inquires about allowing the cowbell back at games and he did not totally rule out a comeback.

"It was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago and will continue to be considered," he said.

For some, they hope that day is sooner, rather than later.

"To me, dampening any school spirit should not be taken lightly," Reid said. "Cowbells are merely a communication of pride between adoring fans and their 'Boys of Fall'. I vote to free the cowbell."

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