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legislating sportsmanship

legislating sportsmanship

It was the last inning of a close game. The visiting team, the team that was ahead, was at bat.

What had been a tightly played game suddenly turned into a free-for-all as the pitcher lost control. His arm worn out, his stamina drained, he threw high and wide and wild as the opposing team scored run after run. There were no other pitchers available. The only other person on the team who could pitch had already put in two innings earlier in the game. The emergency subsitute pitcher was in the bathroom.

As the team at bat neared the seventh run of the inning, which would give them the run-rule advantage and thus ending the inning, the infield fell apart also. The second baseman stumbled while trying to scoop up a grounder. The second baseman tried to cover, but missed the ball by a mile, falling into the dirt as he did so.

The nase runners all crossed the plate. As they went into their dug-out, high-fiving and whooping it up, they laughed. They pointed at the team on the field and laughed and cackled and rolled around on the floor clutching their stomachs. Their coach stood quietly on the third base line, waiting to send home his runner and end the slaughter with the seventh run. He glanced over at his players; they were pointing at the infield, pointing at the pitcher and still giggling and smirking. The coach turned his attention back to the field, without so much as telling his players to settle down. No one was surprised at the coach or the team's lack of sportsmanship. This coach has built a reputation on being a driven, win-at-all-costs, gloating kind of guy.

Under a new legislation passed in Nassau County, Long Island yesterday, the behavior exhibited by the winning team would be a violation of law.

The "good sportsmanship" bill, sponsored by Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) calls for parents to agree to teach their young athletes that honest effort is as important as winning.

Under the fair play agreement, arguing with an official is out. So is taunting, showboating and trash talking.

If an opponent scores on a deep pass play for the winning touchdown, for example, under the fair play agreement it would be good sportsmanship to actually show appreciation for their skills.

The above example is a true story. It happened just last week at one of DJ's games (he was on the losing end). The situation was handled when one of our coaches went over to the other team and told them that their behavior was unsportsman like and unaccaptable and should they do that again, he would report them to the league. End of story.

Legislating sportsmanship is a joke. Granted, there are extremes to bad sportsmanship, but those instances should be handled by the league or school the offending team/player belongs to. This bill does say that, but there shouldn't have to be a legislative action to put this into force.

Once again, lawmakers are taking over where parents should be stepping in. No taunting, no showboating, no arguing with the umpires...those are things that should be taught at home and drilled into the head of every kid who is playing an organized sport. The fact that these lawmakers think parents need to sign a contract saying they swear to teach these basic tenets of sports to their kids, well that says a whole lot about society, doesn't it?

It's easy to spot the parents who do not teach sportsmanship to their kids. They are the ones yelling at the 13 year-old umpires. They are the ones who yell instructions to their kid from the sidelines, telling their child to do the complete opposite of what the coach is instructing. They are the ones who chastise their child in front of everyone for swinging late or missing an easy layup. They are the ones who try make excuses for their son having a bat over the regulated size or who gives wrong information to get their 12 year old onto the 11 year old football team so he can be the biggest and strongest.

I'm all for good sportsmanship. I don't mind if the leagues set their own rules and post them somewhere. But something about having to legislate those rules of fair play rankles me. Which parent is going to be the first to start policing the games and reporting every swear word mumbled under a parent's breath to the league officials? Which coach will be the first to report a team for breaking the law when a kid throws throws his glove at the fence in frustration? The legislation will work against the good coaches and for the bad coaches in the respect that the win-win-win coaches will now be looking for the slightest infraction of this law in order to get the opposing team's best player thrown out of the playoffs.

Trust me, I know how these people work. I know the mindset of coaches who think that 10 year olds are little machines, doing work for their coach's ego.

I think that people are too quick to try and legislate the things they can't take on themselves. This isn't going to force parents to teach their children good sportsmanship. It's completely out of their hands now. All they have to say is "Johnny, don't do that or someone will report you." Not, "Johnny, don't do that because it shows disrespect to your fellow players."

Sportsmanship and respectful behavior on the playing field should be taught, not mandated.


No kidding. Things like this don't need to be mandated. If parents can't be relied upon to teach sportsmanship, that's one thing, but to put it into legal terms?

Gimme a break.

A couple of the greatest lessons my dad ever taught me was when he was the coach of my little league team. We were a gang of misfits from the "wrong" end of town, but we beat the heck out of the other teams. We didn't lose a single game (until the league decided to change the rules, because "it wasn't fair that we were winning so much" and we were so disheartened we gave up...but that's another story).

Anyway, if he EVER caught one of us doing something to disrespect the other team, we would be sitting on our butts warming the bench for the rest of that game (and several more)...didn't matter if it was the best hitter or pitcher or the worst...

The other lesson came when a hot-headed coach from another team didn't like the enforcement of the rules. When you catch a pop-up in foul territory, the batter is out, right? Well, the batter's mom didn't think that was fair and forced the coach to confront the umpire. When my dad calmly protested that we were there to teach the kids the rules, the other coach exploded! He came at my dad all red-faced and screaming. Rather than immediately launch into it, my dad calmly dropped his clipboard and stood there--ready to deck the guy (and he could have easily), but he would NEVER strike first. He calmly talked the guy down from his anger high.

No law can (or should) enforce any of that.

I've been thinking about something you mentioned in another post, about the woman shopping with her children who, when her son whacked his head on the shopping cart, hit the cart and said, "bad shopping cart". People are failing to teach their children to take responsibility and this is just another manifestation of it. I agree that legislation is not the best way to handle this, but I understand neither the cause nor do I have a clue how one could, effectively, induce people to take responsibility.

Although I don't think it requires legislation, I have wondered why they don't call taunting around here in any other sport besides football. They are quick to do it then; any celebration at all besides the obligitory pats on the ass and a couple of jumping hugs gets a flag. Never happens in any other sport, no matter what they do.

On a side note, maybe I can ask you guys this. My daughters soccer team is the Hotshots. They have been doing a little chant, "when you're hot you're hot, when you're not you're not, go hotshots" before and after their games. They say it at practice too. I hadn't really thought about it, but the coach on saturday obviously thought it was in poor taste. He was fine before the game, but after we beat them he was grumbling about it. He is from a town where they are notoriously bad losers, but is the chant over the line? I don't think so because I know the spirit in which it was intended.

While I agree that it's absurd to legislate sportsmanship, I find it disturbing that there are coaches and parents out there who behave like this. You can't really do anything about the parents. Even if they're banned from the game, they'll still act like that at home. The league can (and should) do something about the coaches, though.

The league won't do anything about the coaches if a) they have a business that sponsors a team or b) don't have enough coaches to go around.

That's really sad. In my opinion, the league's main concern should be that the kids all enjoy themselves. That includes teaching sportsmanship and getting rid of coaches who don't. I don't have kids yet, let alone kids old enough to be in little league, so maybe I'm a little naive here.

My brother played in Little League many years ago. Same problems, same types of parents and coaches. Nothing changes. People basically stay the same, and no amount of legislation can change them. The best we can do is teach our children well.