Let the kids play ball and have fun

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 10, 2002

Sports Editor

Susan Powter, the noted diet guru, had a popular term she used in all of her infomercials a few years back; "stop the insanity!"

It’s fitting that I begin this column directing that very same term toward those rec league parents who wish to make idiots of themselves in front of their own children.

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You should fall down on your knees and thank God we live in a country where your little boy or little girl has a chance to play baseball. You think Afghan children are thinking about balls and strikes while their parents are scratching around for food, sometimes eating dirt just to survive?

And what I’m about to say may make you mad, but there’s really not much difference between you and the Islamic extremists who want to kill the "dreaded infidel," namely we Americans. They want to fight because of their religion. You want to fight because of a baseball game. Two very different passions, yet two identical responses.

The responsibility of a journalist is to report the truth. The truth brings about changes. The truth in this case is this: there is no place in recreation sports for the kind of arrogance you bring to the table; the "my child couldn’t strike out" attitude, or the "my child couldn’t have been called out at second because he’s Superman on the base paths" attitude.

These are kids, people. They’re not superstars. Most of them never will be. After hearing how it was the umpire’s fault for eight or nine years, by the time they get to high school their egos will be so inflated that a 10-run rook at the hands of another team will devastate them.

"But I’m so good!" They’ll think. "What happened?"

And who will they blame when they’re not offered a college scholarship or drafted by the Major League?

Mommy and Daddy.

There’s an defining moment in "The Bad News Bears" when the Bears are taking on the Yankees for the little league city championship. Walter Matthau and the head coach of the Yankees have been involved in heated arguments throughout the season and it’s boiled over until all the two men can think about is win, win, win. Both verbally abuse their kids and risk injuries to their players in the course of the final game.

At one point, the Yankees’ pitcher, who is the son of the head coach, is told by his father to walk a Bears’ batter. The kid, being a kid, wants to prove he’s better and strike out the hitter. His father lashes out with a slap to his son’s face in front of everybody.

The kid then throws a pitch and the ball is hit right back to him. But instead of tossing the ball to first base for the easy out, he keeps it tucked away in his glove, staring at his father. While his teammates try and get the ball away from him, the Bears’ player scores and ties the game.

The boy drops the ball at his father’s feet when he leaves the field and the game, giving up on something he probably loved more then anything in the world. The pressure was just too great.

The Bears end up losing the game, but Matthau realized his fault and corrected it, telling them "just play the best you can and have fun."

Now, do you want your son or daughter dropping the ball at your feet because of something you said or did?

Or do you just want them to play their best and have fun?