In recent weeks, as children return to school, sporting events have also increased. While we've heard of no local incidents of misbehavior by parents of student-athletes recently, we like to offer a reminder about sportsman-like conduct.
At the national level, coaches and players in the National Football League have been setting a poor example for student-athletes by pushing, shoving and slapping each other on the field as well as coaches grabbing or otherwise confronting referees in recent games. Some commentators blame the replacement referees' poor calls as grounds for the unsportsman-like behavior, but we disagree. Who among us has not played in or witnessed a game during which referees have made calls the crowd boos or the coach reacts poorly to? As adults, we should be setting examples for student-athletes, reacting rationally and respectfully toward officials despite calls we find disagreeable.
We aren't saying the NFL replacement referees are doing an adequate job, only pointing out that honest officials deserve to be respected no matter how they call the game and teams should respect opponents.
It's interesting to see how each team reacts when officials impact the outcome of the game in the other team's favor. As New England Patriots fans, it comes as no surprise to us that Pats players and Coach Bill Belichick handled the loss with their typical self-responsibility spiel about how they could have played better and the loss is nobody's fault but the team's own. Many other NFL teams as well as other sports, also take responsibility on themselves for losses, which, for most, makes them more endearing to fans. Other teams, in this case Green Bay — defeated in the final minutes by the Seattle Seahawks when officials appeared to have called an intercepted pass as a touchdown — show the other side of the coin. Following Monday night's game, one Packers player took to Twitter using copious profanity to vent his frustration with the officials' call. According to stories about the game, the player's Tweet was re-posted by tens of thousands of fans. Accepting a loss with grace, no matter who or what is to blame, is something that should be encouraged in student-athletes and professionals alike. Part of being a fan is supporting the team, but there are more positive ways to do so than encouraging player's poor reaction.
We've also heard talk that NFL coaches play to officials' penalty calling backgrounds, trying to “get away” with as many infractions as possible without being penalized. Is this a good policy to instill in student and professional athletes — that players can walk the line and even cross over it as long as a particular official is calling the game? We'd like to think that players at the high school level on down would not be subjected to such coaching.
Children often begin playing sports at a young age and parents should also begin instilling a sense of sportsmanship and fair play along with coaches. Videos of parents brawling at youth sports, like hockey, football and baseball, are all too common. In videos, youngsters stand by as red-faced fathers or mothers verbally or physically assault each other or officials. As parents and sports fans, we find such behavior altogether unacceptable.
And it's not just an American thing, apparently. A quick Internet search reveals unrest on the part of soccer fans in England, who retaliated against an official on Twitter this week by making personal attacks referencing the official's past battle with cancer. The official reportedly is seeking legal action against the tweeters.
Nor is the problem limited to one sport. There have been cries of “foul” or “cheat” in nearly every professional sport at one time or another — baseball players with substances on/in bats or balls, soccer players using their hands, basketball players drawing fouls.
We'd like to think children begin playing sports because it's something they love to do, not because they are basing their futures on becoming professional athletes. And we hope they continue to play their best even when referee calls do not go their way rather than resorting to similar activities as we've seen in the NFL in recent days.