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Commentary: “I gotta have more cowbell baby!”

In recent years the cowbell has enjoyed a Renaissance in pop culture. From a memorable mention on Saturday Night Live to the slopes of world class ski events and everything in between, fans making a loud sound for their teams has become part and parcel of sporting events at all levels.

But as new technologies have arisen over the years, organizations like the Montana High School Association (MHSA) have had to create and enforce rules to keep the environment good for both players and fans.

At Friday’s game in Arlee the public address announcer asked fans of the Flint Creek Titans to stop using their cowbells at several points, stating that it was good sportsmanship to follow the rules. But those fans only rang them all the louder. Well, after muting them for a few seconds while grinning like the Grinch after stealing Christmas.

But they did so because they knew the rules.

So what does the MHSA Handbook really say about the use of cow bells and other noise makers at their sanctioned contests? Let’s take a look at what the current rule actually says:

The use of bells, air horns, whistles, wooden blocks and other noise makers during indoor Association contests is prohibited. At indoor contests bands may only play before the start of a contest, during intermissions between periods (quarters) and during a time out. They may not play during “live ball.” At outdoor contests the use of electronic and air-amplified devices, including vuvuzelas, by spectators is prohibited. At all outdoor contests bands will not be allowed to play during “live ball.”

~ MHSA Handbook 2018-19 (PDF); Section 34 Crowd Control at MHSA Contests, Item J (Page 27)

It seems that when people attempt to interpret this rule that they tend to overlook one little word – indoors. Bells, air horns, whistles, wooden blocks and other noise makers are forbidden inside, but at events like football, soccer and the like they are completely legal.

Hence the Grinchy grins Friday night.

Later in that rule the MHSA does outline what noise makers are forbidden, which thankfully includes the dreaded vuvuzela. Made famous at World Cup soccer events, these sound makers give people the impression that someone has pulled a 16-wheeler within an inch of your head and laid on the horn.

So there ya have it. The next time an announcer or referee tells you to silence that bell you’re ringing along the sidelines on some chilly fall night, just yell back, “I gotta a fever! And the only prescription is more cowbell … and MHSA Rule 34 Item J!”

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