Now, I’m not a big football fan. I’ve never really cared enough about the sport to learn the rules, or even pay attention to who the popular players are. Well, ok, outside of Brett Favre, because I have a whole lot of Cheesehead friends who worship him like the apes do the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Or did, didn’t he switch teams or something? I don’t know, nor do I particularly care.
Our own Seattle Seahawks got a wildcard slot into the playoffs for the Superbowl, so that was a little exciting. They beat New Orleans, and the cheering and stomping apparently registered on some old seismographs located in that area, which is kind of cool. Then, in time-honored Seattle professional sports team tradition, choked in the next game against the Bears. And to be fair, the Seahawks don’t have a lot of practice playing in snow so… That is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the sport of football. Apart from the fact that it is lesser than hockey.
So I see the news that the poor quarterback from Chicago is being slaughtered in the press for leaving the game early this last weekend because of an injury, an MCL tear. His team-mates are joining in the pile-on, and that is just plain unsportsman-like.
Jay Cutler in November 2009
Apart from that stellar display of unsportsman-like behavior on the part of this poor guy’s team-mates and fans, I’d like to talk about the lack of sportsman-like conduct at all levels of sports in this country, from Little League on up to the Big League. I used to coach 4-8 year olds in ice hockey when I was a teenager, and you would be appalled at the behavior of some of these parents. There’s a reason I followed in my Dad’s footsteps as far as a “No parents in the locker room” approach. You watch a four year old dissolve into tears because his parent’s just told him how awful he was on the ice, and keep your temper. (I didn’t.)
I go to watch the two area WHL teams, the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips games fairly frequently. My folks and my sister go even more frequently. The games are good, fast and high quality. These kids are bucking for a place in the NHL, and they play hard and hungry.
These kids are also 16-20 years old for the most part.
One reason I don’t go to more games is I get really pissed off at the other fans.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I really don’t think screaming obscenities at 16 year old kids is ok. Particularly when the assholes doing the screaming are 40 year old men, doing it in front of their own kids. Because beer-fueled profanity is a GREAT example to set for your kids.
Those kids play their hearts out every time they hit that ice. They want to make into the NHL, and quite a lot of them do. They’re good, they’re fast, and they’re still young enough to be resilient. They’re also still young enough that shit like that can really get under their skins. I’ve seen crowd-abuse destroy games for some of these young men. And I find it really annoying that most of the most egregious offenders wouldn’t know which end of damned stick to hold in their hands.
I was raised with hockey. As a small child, I thought they canceled Saturday morning cartoons for hockey season, because I never saw them*. We were at the rink from 6am until noon every Saturday, and frequent Sundays starting from when my mom was pregnant with me. Before, actually. I never got to play because by the time we moved somewhere with affordable ice time, I’d already blown out my knee playing soccer. But I did get to coach. And my father, for all his faults, if there was one thing he tried to teach all of his players, was that hockey was, first and foremost, a game. And if you weren’t out there because you enjoyed it, you were doing it for the wrong reasons.
Dad pissed off a fair number of parents over the years. Every kid got the same amount of ice time, regardless of ability. Every kid played. And a few kids who were good quit because my Dad told them that it was ok to stop playing if you didn’t love it anymore.
Dad would also tell off obnoxious parents, and on more than one occasion had parents ejected from the rink for yelling obscenities at their own, or other, kids.
So, these kids in the WHL are out there playing their hearts out, playing like you wouldn’t believe, and there are neanderthals in the stands screaming for fights, screaming for players to purposely injure other players, screaming obscenities.
At 16, 17, 18 year old kids.
So is it any wonder what they do to the pros?
*I remember feeling bitterly betrayed at my first sleep over in grade school during the winter, when I found out they didn’t.