Commentary: Game may change but bad sports don't
Steve Volkert - Oshkosh, Wisconsin, August 1, 2007
Growing up in an athletic family, summertime meant one thing, baseball. And while some things have changed as I've grown from athlete to parent of athletes, another, unfortunately, has not.
Poor sportsmanship, I've observed, continues to be passed down from generation to generation.
Recently, I ran into a fellow parent of a student athlete who was enlightening me about a little league baseball game that they had experienced the night before. While she lightly touched upon the "minor" detail of the game's outcome, the basis of her discussion had to do with the way parents in the stands childishly proved their intellect hadn't changed since the days they played several decades ago. Their constant yelling at the umpires and coaches from a decent distance proved that sportsmanship was not a word in their vocabulary. It almost seemed to this observing parent that these screaming whiners disguised as grown-ups only came to this contest to complain.
Bad sportsmanship is like prejudice -- you are not born with it, it is a learned response. In other words, you have to see other idiots doing it to learn how to be an idiot.
So when parents go to games and sit there constantly arguing with umpires, they inevitably pass this incredibly childish trait onto their kids who are unfortunately witness to how dumb their parents really are. They believe that yelling at umpires is a part of the game of baseball just like bats, balls and gloves, and then they take up the family tradition.
Today, more and more decent umpires and referees of all sports are turning down the increasing dollars offered because the abuse someone has decided is a part of the job is simply not worth it. Who in their right mind wants to go to any job in which they are assured of harassment from some loudmouth jerk? Do these parents understand how foolish they look when they argue every call?
As a WIAA umpire and referee, let me give those of you parents who believe crying like snibbling little babies is a part of the game a little insight.
First, your children on the field are greatly embarrassed by you. They don't think it's cool when their dads are screaming from 75 feet away the umpire is an idiot because the "boy in blue" didn't see the extra six inches of strike zone off the plate that said father saw on an outside pitch.
Second, other more-mature parents think you're a jerk for disrupting their enjoyment of the game because you think you're some kind of baseball God from the cheap seats.
Finally, and most importantly, here's a newsflash Einstein: No game has ever been won or lost due to a blown call. Even in a 2-1 contest, a team doesn't lose when an umpire makes a mistake on the final out with the tying run on third. The team loses because they can't score more than one run without good calls. They need to practice more hitting.
All sports are a great outlet for kids, but they are just a game. And the real enjoyment comes when two, well trained teams, play a good, clean game enjoyed by parents, players and coaches who all show good sportsmanship.
Let's stop training our kids to be bad sports and either keep our mouths closed or stay home if we can't control our childish anger.
There's no room for bad sports in sports.
Northwestern Community Columnist Steve Volkert is a married father of three living in the City of Omro. He has worked the last nine years for the City of Omro. Prior to that, he worked 15 years in media, (newspapers, radio and TV) including three years at the Oshkosh Northwestern.