When the story broke last week about a group of Colorado parents fighting each other at their children’s baseball game — and by fighting, I mean real punches, haymakers, bodies thrown to the ground — many people were shocked.
One thing any veteran sportswriter will tell you is the bar is almost never low enough for fan behavior. And when those “fans” are parents, it can sink even more.
The “adults” in Colorado were apparently upset over an umpire’s calls in a game involving — and read this slowly — 7-year-olds.
Yep. And the offending “umpire” was a 13-year-old boy.
It’s almost laughable, right? But that didn’t stop the supposed grown-ups from storming the field and going after each other. It was a classic barroom brawl, minus the bar.
And of course, it was captured on video.
“These parents and coaches decided to take it out on each other,” Lakewood police spokesman John Romero told the media after the assaults, which have resulted so far in five citations for disorderly conduct and potential child abuse charges. “It’s very sad. At the very beginning of the video, you can see kids running off the field.”
Of course. They’re the only ones with any sense.
‘Think before you act’
The history of crazed parents at sporting events is long and depressing. There was a father who shined a laser light into the eyes of an opposing team’s goalie during a girls hockey game, and a father who ran onto the field and tackled a child during a football game. There was a mother who taunted opposing fans by lifting her shirt and shaking her assets.
Parents have paid a kid pitcher to throw a baseball at another kid, have bitten off a piece of a coach’s ear, have even poisoned a player’s water bottle.
And of course, in Massachusetts, a hockey dad went ballistic on a coach and beat him to death.
Compared to that stuff, the Colorado melee looks like waltzing.
“It’s a good reminder for adults,” Romero said. “… you have these children who look up to you, think before you act.”
I’ve heard plenty of theories as to why this stuff keeps happening. Too much pressure in youth sports. Social media. Scouting services. Parents imagining their children as meal tickets if they make it to the pros.
There is truth to all of that. And the money in youth sports — travel baseball, AAU basketball, youth hockey, etc. — only heightens the stakes in the minds of mom and dad.
Plus, the trend of today’s parents — sports or no sports — acting as if their children are the first to ever be born, young kings and queens, never to be criticized, only rewarded, just makes things worse.
But all of that doesn’t explain why parents go ballistic over a 13-year-old umpire at a game between 7-year-olds.
Here’s what does:
Respect. A total lack of it.
Not to each other.
To their children.
‘Parents … need to grow up’
That’s right. These same parents who primp, fuss, micromanage and over-indulge their little athletes, and are fond of telling us how they do it from love, how it’s what the child wants, not what they want, and how they’re really being the best parents a child could ever have by sitting in the bleachers and yelling on every play, and if that leads them to mouth off to an umpire, or let another child’s parents have it, well, heck, they’re only showing their children how much they care?
Baloney. They care mostly about how it makes them feel, the sense of superior child-rearing it gives them, and the outlet for their frustration if everything isn’t perfect for their budding Derek Jeter or LeBron James.
When I say it shows a lack of respect, I mean this; they don’t respect their children enough to restrain themselves. Children watch adults’ behavior. One day, they will imitate it. If these volatile parents truly cared about their little ones’ futures as much as they claim, they’d bite their tongues, sit on their fists, and keep their lasers to themselves.
Because our character is what forms our children’s character. And if we really love them, if we actually respect the future that we hold in our hands, we don’t prove it by how passionate we can get when a call doesn’t go our way.
We prove it by how accepting we can be — and how they will one day need to be — when things are not always perfect.
Instead, we have yet another viral video of infantile adults. Here are the ages of the five men cited at that Colorado game, according to KCNC-TV in Denver: 24, 26, 29, 47 and 55.
As Romero told the media, “You have 7-year-olds playing a baseball game and it’s the parents that need to grow up.”
Good luck with that.
Contact Mitch Albom: email@example.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.