Everybody else’s families had been out at the ballfields for nearly four hours by the time I got back there last night—even the four-year-old little sister of Alex’s teammate. I was the slacker; all I’d done from 4p.m. on was take kids to piano, pick up dinner at Hy Vee, drop Nicholas at cub scouts, cross town to drop Alex off at baseball, pick Nicholas up, take kids home, supervise packing lunches, get kids ready for bed, and continue triage from the weekend’s kid drama.
(In case you’re wondering about division of labor in our house, Christian has been working 60 hour weeks for quite a while now, and he was teaching piano last night following another brutal day while I was taking point on everything else.)
It was a beautiful night, but by the time I arrived, at the top of the third inning of the second game of this double-header, Alex’s team was obviously worn out. It was about 9:30 p.m. when it happened: someone took issue with a call by the home plate umpire. There was widespread confusion on both sets of stands: was the kid out? Was he safe? What was going on? Momentarily, the game sort of ground back into motion.
It was a couple minutes before I realized a group of parents was converging behind the backstop, exchanging words that were escalating steadily. Pretty soon there were expletives, and threats of violence. Then suddenly one of the players was in the middle of it. People were stalking off, turning around, coming back for more. Apparently a parent from the other team had threatened the father of one of the players on Alex’s team with an – – – kicking.
To his credit, the umpire kept his cool, and eventually turned around and stopped the game—by now it was past 9:40p.m. on a school night—and said, “Folks, we’ve got one out left. Let’s just get this game done and get out of here for the night.” At least one parent stormed off, yelling, “Tell me when you’re ready to play real baseball!”
The fact that a judgment call made by an umpire could spark this level of anger? This is wrong on so many levels.
It’s…a…REC LEAGUE, folks.
These kids are TWELVE. And THIRTEEN. They’re not even in HIGH SCHOOL yet. There are no scholarships being won or lost at the American Legion fields on a Tuesday night.
IT’S A GAME.
IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.
And what kind of example are you setting for your kids about the right way to handle setbacks?
I confess: I am not now and have never been a sports person. In fact, the general obsession with sports in America, to the exclusion of the arts, is a source of continual irritation to me. (I heard about a school that requires kids do be in a sport EVERY SEASON. I longed to ask, “Do they require kids to be involved in an art as well?” But I decided the answer was likely to make me angry, and life offers plenty of emotional stress without going in search of more.) What quality sports experience exists independent of music and visual arts and a well-crafted turn of phrase? Not a single one.
Still, not liking sports myself doesn’t preclude me supporting my kids in playing sports. They love playing, and it is a great opportunity to learn teamwork and grace in both success and failure. And the simple importance of making physical activity a long-standing personal value, something integral and normal to life, can’t be overstated.
But sports can teach kids the opposite lessons, too. Especially when parents behave like they did last night. Which is why I’m calling them out this morning.