ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Summertime means hot weather, windy days and those inevitable pests at summer ball games-whiny parents.
Even before the school year officially ended, summer recreation ball games began. Hordes of energized tykes eagerly scurry from position to position in an attempt to learn the rules of the game, make that spectacular catch, get a base hit and score a run.
The smell of the leather gloves and the pop of the ball as it hits the mitt send spectators back to their own childhood days-back to the days when we remember being slightly better players than others remember us being.
But it seems no matter the age of the children playing, what the game was, or where it was played, every crowd had someone who pretended to know more than the umpires and the coaches.
The constant complaints of these know-it-alls were like fingernails dragging across a chalkboard.
Did the children on the field need those detrimental words filtering through the stale summer’s air?
Did the child of the complainer like hearing his or her own parent complain like a spoiled 5-year-old?
Most of the time, the primary result of this constant whining of parents was to embarrass the children-or worse yet, to encourage them to grow up like that parent.
Thirty-some years have passed, and those kids who played now have their own children on the diamonds.
Most parents are in the stands to support their children, to encourage their efforts, and to provide the opportunity for the children to improve their athletic and social skills.
Still, a small minority of parents insist on coaching and umpiring from the stands.
Before you yell a derogatory statement at the officials, coaches or-heaven forbid-the athletes, stop and think about what you’re saying.
If you’re saying you can do a better job of umpiring than the underpaid folks on the field, get certified and do it yourself. Then you can prove to everyone that you’re able to call every play perfectly.
If you’re saying you can do a better job of coaching than the volunteer on the field, talk to Matt Dalke or your local recreation director.
No doubt, rec departments appreciate any help they can get, and because you know everything, it’s a sure bet your team would win the league championship to boot.
And if you think your child is the best player in the league and doesn’t make mistakes, quit your job-you’ll be able to live off that child’s Major League salary in just a few short seasons.
But if you hold your tongue for a moment and actually think about your negative comment before you yell it, maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize what your comments say about your own intelligence-for better or worse.
Each of us occasionally will disagree with an umpire’s call and a coach’s decision. Once in a great while, a few of us may have a child who plays an entire game without making a mistake.
But let’s remember the purpose of summer ball is to give children a chance to improve their abilities and to have fun.
The purpose is not to give parents the opportunity to broadcast their supposed knowledge of the rules or how they would manage pint-sized personnel.
Parents, simply enjoy the kids-whether or not you have a child playing. You’ll see in them a competitive innocence that, unfortunately, will likely fade with each passing year.
But when you do make that trip, go for the purpose of supporting for the participants.
Applaud a great effort, whether it was successful or not.
Thank a coach for sharing precious time with other people’s children.
Thank a sponsoring business for donations that make our communities a better place to raise families.
If you’re coming out to berate and belittle, stay home until you’re a little more mature.