The transitioning to a new year often brings with it moments of reflection. Deep thoughts transpire as to what is the true meaning of life as well as what our role is in this vast universe. What significance do sports play in this grander scheme of life as we know it? How can we keep a healthy perspective, and what is that healthy perspective relative as to the greater world around us?
These questions will have a wide array of answers depending on ones role in the games. Players, coaches, parents, and fans alike will all evoke differing responses depending upon their frames of reference.
In starting this weekly blog, just beginning my fourth year, I think I offer a different point of view when it comes to youth athletics in Maine. I am not a coach. I do not have children, therefore do not view the games from a parent’s point of view. This June will mark twenty-seven years since I graduated from high school. The pom-poms from those days have long since been put away. Sure I have my favorites and pull for certain schools, but I look at myself more as an observer than a fan.
Since those high school days, I’m fortunate to have been involved in athletics in some capacity my entire adult life. I’ve had the opportunity to coach, broadcast, serve as a public address announcer, and work the table in basketball as a scorekeeper. Depending upon the role at the time, sports took on different meanings and varying levels of importance. As a coach I was a bit of the obsessive, compulsive type, which in a way led me to get out of that end of athletics.
At this point in my life attending or being involved with youth and high school sporting events is my oasis from the everyday world. I don’t think I am more in my happy place than when I’m working the scorer’s table at a John Bapst basketball game. The same is true if I’m doing the public address at Mansfield Stadium and running the scoreboard or announcing a football game on a Friday night. There is a comfort and familiarity there that I don’t find in most other venues.
Athletics are where I find my social network. Most of the meaningful relationships I have developed have been forged through sports. Truth be told, while I feel socially at home and at ease in a gym or at a field, I am just as awkward socially in most other settings.
In too many instances this oasis that sports can provide has turned into a toxic cesspool. Unrealistic fans and parents can put the killjoy into what should be a wonderful experience. It continues to amaze me how supposedly sane people in the everyday world turn into blithering idiots when the ball is tossed to begin play. This is precisely the reason when I attend a high school basketball game I purposely sit as far away from the parent section as I can. Sometimes homer fan with an agenda is simply unavoidable.
“Shoot it”. It doesn’t matter if the ball is maybe three dribbles over half court. It makes no difference one pass has not been made and the opposition has yet to actually play defense. Nor has the reality sunk into the fan, who is likely the parent of the player who is supposed to “shoot it”, that maybe the player has connected on slightly less than twenty percent of attempts beyond the arc all year. In such cases, I just sit there and think to myself, “please for the love of all things basketball, please don’t shoot it.”
“Shoot it” guy is the close cousin to “three seconds” guy. You know the one, who loves to holler out three seconds any time an opposing player enters the lane. What said fan often doesn’t realize is the three seconds resets once the player catches the ball in the lane. They are then allowed to make a basketball move. Three seconds also resets when the ball is shot and the rebound is secured. Yet, the loudest people in the stands are often those who couldn’t pass an official’s exam if their lives depended on it.
Of course, playing a little ball back in the day qualifies one to be a coach. Never mind said fan has never put together a practice plan, conducted said practice, scouted an opponent, and constructed a game plan. Now, I will admit there are poor coaches and poor officials, just as there is incompetence in every vocation or avocation. In most instances, I will trust the experience and judgement of those actually doing than those who think they know what coaching and officiating entails but in reality have no clue.
It’s been said that sports is the toy department of life. It’s time we ask ourselves: by our presence at these games, are we contributing positively or negatively to the overall atmosphere in our gyms, rinks, and fields? Are we contributing to a toxic cesspool or are we helping to create an environment that is truly an oasis, an escape from the real problems we face in today’s world?