One of the highlights of this column is the annual edition of top five stories of the year from Doug Abrams.
Abrams is the University of Missouri law professor who is part of the conscience for youth sports in America. The daily package of articles he sends out serves as a constant reminder of what is right and wrong with youth sports.
His top five stories are a year-end collection of the best in youth sports. Consider this a summertime edition of the worst.
We, as parents, can be selflessly devoted to our kids and their athletic endeavors. That should be a good thing. Problem is, some of us get carried away. Sometimes we cross lines, lose perspective. Sometimes it stops being about the life lessons and the development of young people.
So, we present some of the stories Abrams has sent our way in the past few months about parents and coaches behaving badly. To paraphrase a popular saying, please don't be this guy.
This comes from a recent article in The Indianapolis Star:
“A Michigan City basketball parent beat a middle school coach unconscious in March after the coach forced his daughter to run laps after practice.
“In August, a 27-year-old father at a pee-wee football game in Franklin Township bit two off-duty police officers who attempted to restrain him after he'd come onto the field to argue a call.
“In May, police were called to Northview Middle School when a fight erupted between two local AAU teams and parents streamed onto the court. No charges were filed, but punches were thrown.”
We're talking about Indiana. The Midwest. Genteel people. A place where they still go to church on Sunday and the men open doors for the women folk.
Try this one from the Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pa.
“The youth-baseball coach accused of brandishing a handgun at a game in Scranton in April pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct Tuesday and had the more serious charges against him dismissed.
“John Zahradnik, 39, of 414 Jenna Kay Drive, Archbald, must pay a $150 fine and court costs and complete anger management, and had a 30-day jail term suspended as part of the sentence handed down by Magisterial District Judge Joanne Corbett, according to Lackawanna County Central Court.
“Mr. Zahradnik was also prohibited from returning to the Colliery Baseball Field off of Colliery Avenue, where the incident occurred on April 20.
“Police said that, after getting into an argument with several individuals over a call made in the game, Mr. Zahradnik got into his pickup truck, nearly struck another man with the vehicle, and got out to punch the man, according to the criminal complaint.
“At that point Mr. Zahradnik shouted that he had a handgun and reached into his truck and pulled a gun out, according to the complaint.”
The most embarrassing moment of my years coaching youth baseball was being thrown out of a game in a New England Regional Cal Ripken tournament for 9-year-olds. I was one of the coaches, and my daughter was on the team. She's never let me forget it.
I'd never come close to being thrown out of a game before that incident, and I haven't come close since, but I always tell the story when I talk with parents and players about being respectful to the umpires. The umpires always have the final word.
Then again, I never thought about whipping out a handgun.
Sometimes it's the umps who are out of control. This story comes from the Daily Record of Morristown, N.J.:
“Dave Delnegro III literally took his umpiring job into his own hands while calling balls and strikes at a Little League game between 8- and 11-year-olds on Friday night.
“According to Piscataway police and Piscataway Little League President Frank Uhrin, the 21-year-old Delnegro punched Joe Bellamy in the face several times after a brief exchange during the second inning of the game between the minor-league Astros and Mets, played before approximately 50 fans.
“Bellamy, 40, who coaches the Astros, did not strike back, citing the code of conduct. Police responded to the Little League complex on Sidney Road at approximately 8:50 p.m., and, after a brief investigation, issued a Simple Assault at a Youth Sporting Event summons to Delnegro. No Municipal Court date has been set. Delnegro is claiming self-defense.”
And, finally, with the help of this tidbit found in the Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif., we leave you with the reminder that one youth game is not the most important thing in the world. So, please, don't speed.
“A Petaluma man was arrested Saturday morning by police who said he was driving 104 mph with two 9-year-old children in the car.
“Juan Carlos Gallegos, 41, said he was in a hurry because the boys were going to be late for their soccer game, according to the Petaluma Police Department.
“Gallegos was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving and child endangerment and booked into Sonoma County Jail. Bail was set at $15,000, and his car was impounded for 30 days.”
No mention of whether the kids made the game.
Staff reporter Jim Fennell's “Just Checking In” column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at email@example.com.