The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of the Davis Clipper.
After reading last week’s column concerning the 17-year old boy arrested for allegedly punching a soccer referee, several of you told me that I was being too harsh on a juvenile. One reader boldly asked, “Didn’t you ever get overly angry at a call during a sporting event? Go to any recreational game and you’ll see parents going overboard.”
He’s right. In Utah we’ve seen parents threatening youth football referees, and mothers getting into a fistfight following a high school baseball tame. Not long ago I witnessed a fan leave the stands, walk out on the court and punch a player during a church-sponsored basketball game.
Unfortunately, I cannot say I have avoided the “bug” that makes normally sane people do stupid and embarrassing things at sporting events Thankfully, I only did it once and I learned my lesson.
Nearly 25 years ago while coaching a team of 10-year olds in a Davis County little league baseball game I lost my cool after an umpire’s call at home plate. I stormed the field and confronted a 16-year-old umpire, used a few words not normally spoken in polite company, and even kicked some dirt in the boy’s direction. What’s worse, the parents of my players actually cheered me on.
However, my anger turned to embarrassment about 10 minutes later. Why the change?
I saw the pitcher on the opposing team turn to his father who was hounding him to “get your head in the game Р throw strikes”, extend his middle finger and shout an obscenity. The spectators Р and the other players as well Р were stunned. The father was too.
The incident reminded me to put the game into perspective. These were 10-year-old boys. They were playing for fun and adventure, not playing out a free agent year with the hopes of getting a huge pay raise. The goal for a successful parent and coach was to see the youngsters develop, have fun, and appreciate the sport; winning or losing the game was far down the list of priorities.
Of course, I knew that before I confronted the young umpire. Somehow I had forgotten it and acted like a jerk.
After the game, I approached the umpire and apologized.
“I don’t know what happened to me out there,” I said. “I apologize for getting in your face on that call at home plate. You called at great game.”
As I walked away, he shouted, “Coach, thank you. To be honest, no one has ever apologized to me before.”
So I understand how rational behavior can unravel in the heat of a sporting event. In almost every case, the result is a brief period of bad feelings and increased blood pressure. But in the case of the soccer player, the result was death. The boy didn’t intend to kill anybody, but that doesn’t heal the wounds of a grieving family.
I learned my lesson while watching from a little league dugout. The 17-year-old will learn his lesson from a barred cell.