Smith urges fans to keep tempers in check

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 8, 2001

Managing Editor

Dan Smith and members of the Alabama Recreation & Parks Association are standing behind a bill that has been introduced in the Alabama House and Senate that makes it a crime to harass, menace or assault "sports officials."

"This is something that I believe will deter open displays of violence or other inappropriate behavior toward sports officials," Smith said. "We feel this will give the authorities the ability to enforce the law by being very specific about what will not be tolerated."

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Though the bill currently addresses issues related to school sports, Smith is hopeful that the definition will be expanded to include organized, recreational activities.

"We have essentially seen two types of people who have a tendency at times to lose control of their emotions," Smith said. "Bear in mind that these situations are generally created by adults who, in the first example, are very emotional because they are experiencing a completely new sensation and set of emotions when they see their child on the playing field."

Smith said parents who see their kids play for the first time often discover the feelings they have are very strong and complex.

"And some people simply become overwhelmed and lose control," Smith said.

Another group of people that may let their emotions get away from them are those who have had a great deal of experience in sports but who become wrapped up in events on the field and lose their perspective.

"The bottom line is that these people, while they may be very good folks, can lose their perspective of what’s happening," Smith said. "Sports are recreational activities. It’ supposed to be fun. When it’s not anymore because of bad behavior, we feel that we must do something about it from a rec league perspective."

Smith said inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated in city sports.

"We cannot and do not tolerate people who are behavioral problems on the field or in the stands," he said. "When people behave badly, we are committed to using the law to its fullest extent to handle the problem."

By being tough when situations get sticky, Smith said his department has been able to keep incidents down.

"We are blessed here in Troy because we don’t often have serious problems," Smith said. "But we can’t afford to let things become sticky."

In other communities throughout the nation, Smith said he has read reports of violence, unacceptable outbursts, threats and other kinds of aggressive behavior demonstrated by fans.

"And laws like the one proposed in this state are being considered elsewhere in the country because society is at a point where these kinds of explosive outbursts won’t be tolerated," Smith said. "I think that’s good, proactive planning."

Smith believes being tough will help ensure the safety of his employees, the fans, the coaches and the officials in the games.

"We must be mindful of the risks of allowing unacceptable behavior to continue," he said. "We try to stop it immediately to correct the problem."

Although legislation has been in the spotlight for several years, Smith said the problem is not a new one.

"This is something we have seen for years, but now people won’t tolerate it anymore," he said. "There have been times when I have been concerned for the safety of the employees with the department, the officials and others. Though we have had no serious problems, we support anything that will make sports safer."

By ensuring safety on and off the field, Smith said sports can be what it’s supposed to be.

"In our case, most of what we see relates to youth sports and comes from adults," he said. "The bottom line is that baseball, soccer and all the other sports are things our children do for fun," he said. "We want to keep kids’ sports fun and we don’t want people around who aren’t interested in doing that."