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Is foul language on football sidelines normal?
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

Dear Athletic Support: I work the concession stand at the high school football games. It’s something I do out of service. My son is a junior linebacker for the team. I know it takes a village for these games to go off without a hitch, so I try to do my part. Lately, though, it’s been getting harder and harder for me to actually want to help out. This problem mainly has to do with the fact that the concession stand is right down by the home sideline, which means I can hear everything that is said during the game. What’s the old saying? Ignorance is bliss? Whew. I wish I’d never heard the sort of language that is tossed around during a game. It’s not just the players; the coaches have potty mouths too. My question is multifaceted: First, is this normal? Is this how all football players and coaches speak? Second, would it be worth my time to go speak with the coach and see about getting it changed? I just don’t know how I feel about my son being subjected to such foul language. 

 —  Potty Mouth


Dear Potty: Language on the sideline all depends on the coach and the standard he sets from day one. If a coach uses vulgar language then he has no ground to stand on when it comes time to reprimand his players.

One thing most coaches forget is that these are still high school kids, the majority of which are under the age of eighteen. Yes, many of them look like adults, but they’re still in school, and that means they have to adhere to school rules. 

If the school already has rules in place for monitoring foul language, then that is what the coach should go by.  

I will be the first to say, though, that this is easier said than done. The main reason is that football is a passionate, violent sport. There are moments on the field or sideline that feel about the same as stubbing your toe. And what do you say when you stub your toe? 


So, yeah, it’s hard to control your tongue, especially when a game is going on. One thing I used to do to protect against this was what I called “The Burpee Rule.”

Anytime anyone cussed they had to stop what they were doing and do a burpee. A burpee is where you drop down on your belly and jump back up and touch the sky. They’re kind of like pushups but harder. 

And, yes, that rule applied to me, the head coach. 

There were games where I would let a zinger fly and a nearby player would try to get me to drop down and do burpees right there on the sideline. I never did burpees on the sideline, but I let the boys keep a tally and I paid my penance on Monday, just like everybody else.

If you do decide to talk to your son’s coach, maybe you should mention “The Burpee Rule.”

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to 

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