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Crazed parents mar sports experience for all

By HUBERT MIZELL, Times Sports Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 11, 2002

It's nothing new. Daddies becoming monsters. Moms turning vicious. For generations, at sports happenings meant to entertain and enrich kids, short-fused parents and nauseating passions too often erupt.

It's nothing new. Daddies becoming monsters. Moms turning vicious. For generations, at sports happenings meant to entertain and enrich kids, short-fused parents and nauseating passions too often erupt.

Egos go berserk. Those who officiate games are not just booed, they are threatened, even assaulted. It can get vulgar. Children prone to emulating parents are force-fed nauseating, perhaps long-lasting lessons.

Sport, indeed.

A hockey referee was hammered to death by a crazed Massachusetts father because he thought Junior had been wronged on the ice. Sport? Recently, Little League baseball in Florida became mayhem, soon marked by blood, bruises and the gnawing of body parts.

Mike Tyson mentality?

Heat of passion idiocy.

This is stupid. Always has been. Always will be, unless stout and effective measures are taken. Must it be the "caging" of spectators, like in New Jersey, where ballfield redesigns prohibit the springing of enraged adults from bleachers?

Can't we handle it with pride? Neighborhood peer pressure? Considerations for family lessons beyond the outcome of a game? Must parents be caged? Must they be barred, including folks who never cause a blip of trouble?

Whatever it takes ... please decide.

Most every time, there is one loud and obvious instigator, perhaps two. Frequently, it's a has-been (or never-was) jock, too deep into fantasizing about eventual greatness for his or her youngster, triggering an absence of common sense and long-range effects.

Umps and refs are not major-leaguers. Most volunteer, trying to help children grow. Amateurs make more mistakes than pros. Bias, in rare cases, could be a problem. Something to be weeded out by sensible, fair leaders and not some crazed instant militia.

Sport, indeed.

A majority of families have top priorities of maturing young physiques, building solid minds and enhancing juvenile attitudes.

Among the lessons should be dealing intelligently with disturbing instances, including officiating.

When will we learn? What does it take? Are we getting closer or not? I recall a soccer game 24 years ago featuring 6-year-old participants, including my son, that became punctuated by a foul, threatening, despicable aftermath.

Little boys were soon copying out-of-control parents, bellowing obscenities, calling officials "cheaters" and worse. Zebras were forced to duck and run. I wanted to confront the raging losers, but the better choice, it seemed, was to cover my child's ears and go home.

It keeps happening.

Civic shame. Sport?

It's all so curable.

* * *

BLITZES: So wise was baseball's ultimate showman, Bill Veeck, he declared more than 30 years ago the game's "true greatness is that it survives the fools who run it." ... Shaquille O'Neal has long said he wants to be a sheriff in post-NBA life, so the 7-foot-1, 315-pound Lakers behemoth does LAPD ride-alongs, which create startled looks from drunks and other wee-hour doozies in halted vehicles. ... Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry, having little luck locating a cadet with proficiency in a certain kind of placement test, offered, "If any of you guys out there can kick field goals, we'll give you a free education; we'll even give you an F-16 or F-22." ... Fuzzy Zoeller sees "a tremendous difference" on the Senior PGA Tour "because there is no jealousy when you win. Everybody comes up and congratulates you where, on the regular tour, you get a handful saying "nice going' while the rest are mad at you for playing so well."

* * *

FIT TO BE TIED: Letter from Jim Meckfessel of Largo asks, "What ever happened to the concept of, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game?' I was disappointed in most reactions to the All-Star outcome. The game was exciting and well played by both sides. Each league was dealing with losses of beloved heroes: Ted Williams, Darryl Kile, Jack Buck. It was a fitting conclusion (tie). Nobody won or lost; it was just "playing the game.'

"However, the Ted Williams MVP Trophy should have been awarded to Torii Hunter for stealing Barry Bonds' home run. His catch was why the game ended tied. Ted would have been proud."

* * *

GRITS: Speaking of trophies ... after a fourth consecutive conquest in the excruciatingly tough Tour de France by the most famous of Texas cancer survivors, why not establish a Lance Armstrong Courageous Comeback Award for those who overcome formidable pain to enjoy athletic greatness?

My 2002 nominee would be Ted Byram. He's 82, lives in Vero Beach, had a stroke that temporarily affected his speech and right arm, but 17 days after the stroke Byram used the same wing to bowl a 300, achieving 12 consecutive strikes, a deed in the Armstrong leagues.

Whatever happened to Wayne Peace?

-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail mmizell02@earthlink.net or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.

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