Monday, September 26, 2011

Should Parents Be Banned From Kids' Football Games?


Last week, the Bethlehem Steelers (125 lbs.) were playing the Mustangs in Lower Macungie. With a little over a minute to go, and the Steelers up by 20, a young Mustang was injured.

Unlike most kids, who might yell in pain or even cry (you can cry in football), this boy was just lying there. He was out. When he came to, he was not moving. He complained of numbness in his shoulder and arm, and everyone waited what seemed like a half hour for an ambulance to drive out onto the field and take the boy away.

Who the hell would want to play after something like that? The Mustangs and the Steelers, that's who. They played a pointless minute in a game that was already decided and after the kids had lost their enthusiasm.

Coaches were still screaming, with veins popping out of their necks and foreheads. So were moms and dads. But the kids knew better. The game was over.

Yesterday, the Steelers played a very good team from North Parkland. They're called the Buffaloes and they are big. I was on the chain gang.

Before these games start, the kids on both teams start whooping it up and hitting each other or slapping their pads, reminding me of primal warriors from our distant past. Cheerleaders encourage them with a banner they run through to their bench.

But the kids aren't the only ones who get psyched. Parents and coaches start screaming, too.

During yesterday's game, which was very close but eventually won by the Buffaloes, one of their boys fumbled the ball in the backfield. As Steelers scrambled for the ball, one of North Parkland's 900 coaches (they all have more coaches than players and with very nice matching shirts) shouted out, "Step on his hands!"

WTF? These are 11 and 12 year-old kids, not the NFL. Would this guy appreciate another adult telling some boy to step on his son's hand?

I turned to the coach, from where I was on the chain gang, and asked him what the hell was wrong with him. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior. To his credit, the coach immediately apologized, told me he had never said anything like that before, and did not know what had happened to him.

I believe him, too. I don't think any of his boys heard him in all the confusion, with so many adults screaming conflicting orders at the tops of their lungs. And if they did, they'd ignore him. The kids knew better.

I'm sure this coach could be removed, but that's not the problem. The problem is that perfectly nice people can turn into animals very quickly. Does the violence inherent in a sport like football cause us all to become primitive tribesman, devolving about 30,000 years for the two hours that we stand in a 100-yard filed of grass?

My grandson loves the game, even more than baseball. So do his teammates. But I'm not worried about them. It's their parents.