We see it on the highways. It’s becoming more apparent in politics these days. Video games and television shows depict and glorify this side of human behavior. We’ve witnessed it escalating over the years at children’s sporting events. Outlandish behavior at the college and professional level is frequently on display. More and more it seems rage is confused with passion these days.
You might recall about 10 years ago a parent killed the coach of his son’s hockey team after a practice scrimmage. The father was so frustrated by seeing his son take an elbow to the face that he confronted the coach and a struggle ensued. The father ended up hitting the coach several times in the head while he was down, resulting in the coach’s death.
Now we have a teenage soccer participant, playing in a recreational soccer league in Salt Lake City, who didn’t like the foul called by the referee. Instead of walking away and letting it go he choose to blind side the ref while he was writing down the foul, punching him in the face. The teenager was playing goalie during a game when the ref issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score a goal. The effects of the punch did not take effect immediately but shortly afterward the referee became dizzy and began to vomit. When police arrived, the teenager was gone and the referee was lying on the ground in the fetal position. The referee laid in a coma for several days then passed away.
Surprisingly this wasn’t the first time the referee had been assaulted during a game. The ref’s daughter told police she and her sisters begged their father to stop refereeing because of the risk from angry players, but he continued because of his love for the game.
Further details will become available as the Salt Lake City community and the legal system sort through the issues that led to the death of this man and the fate of the 17-year-old who lost control of his emotions. But like the New England hockey dad this event serves as a reminder to us all to dial back the anger. Recreational sports for both children and adults is designed for exercise and enjoyment but also for the values learned by participating in team sports.
Competition and respect for the rules of the game are essential foundations not only for sports but for society in general. Being able to control your emotions and resisting the urge to take physical action was at one time a major tenet of sports.
Unfortunately, that has changed. The charge of a batter to the pitcher’s mound when brushed back by a pitch is now an expected event in baseball, and we’ve seen similar reactions from players in all sports. This spontaneous display of anger can be seen in all levels of sports play, which in turn transitions to everyday life.
That is why we all must take notice of how something as trivial as a simple foul in a recreational game has resulted in the death of one man and ruined the life of a 17-year-old teenager. Obviously, the teen did not intend to commit murder, but his momentary lapse nonetheless has affected many and the results of his actions should serve as a wake up call for us all, or just chalked up as an isolated event.
Children are a product of their environment and our environment continues to excuse and reward outlandish behavior,not only in sports, but on television, in movies and video games. We’ve lost sight of the line one should never cross and as we go further and further over that line we will see more events like this unfold.
Sportsmanship in America at one time stood for the very best in human behavior. If we fail to return to the values once so important to the games we play we will have far more than sports out of control in our society.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.