It#039;s just a game!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2001

Ever wonder why some kids seem just as content to stand at the plate, not swinging, and go down with three strikes after a full count, and yet others want to argue with 'Blue' (Ump) after each called pitch?

The difference is what I call the 'parent factor.'

By that, I mean the parental influence factor. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to sit in the bleachers for just five minutes, never speaking to a soul, and come up with a similar equation.

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There are those parents that support their children by saying, &uot;That's O.K. Johnny, you'll do better next time,&uot; and those that scream, &uot;Hey Blue, what are ya, blind?&uot;

People, it is just a game. Think of the message you are teaching the kids - that it is in fact acceptable to raise your blood pressure to the point of your face turning crimson (notice I didn't say auburn), and to raise your voice to a crackling hoarseness as you imply, &uot;That's right, I am a sore sport, but it's alright because that's my kid out there.&uot;

Makes you wonder what that kid is thinking.

Are they saying, that's my Dad or Mom that is sticking up for me, or do they silently think to themselves, &uot;I wish he would quit it,&uot; or even worse (and probably the most true) &uot;If they can do it, I can too.&uot;

Then, once they do show disrespect or poor sportsmanship and the umpire has ejected them from the field, what goes through their mind then?

Is it, &uot;I had it coming,&uot; or is it, &uot;I couldn't have deserved it, my parents say those things all the time - it must be O.K.&uot;

I say that we should remember that it is only a game - one that is teaching valuable lessons, whether we like it or not.

And every lesson isn't the right one, either. There are the good ones, the messages sent with praise for effort regardless of the outcome, and the bad ones, when we tell our kids that winning is the most important aspect of the game.

In all honesty, lately there has been no difference between some of the parental performances witnessed at the ball fields and those of the disappointed mom at a beauty pageant.

You know the one I mean, the one that isn't satisfied because her child, one of say 25 equally cute children (every parent's child is their personal favorite), came in second, or third, or even didn't place.

The children are still beautiful, and braver than I for getting in front of all those parents in the audience, those who, with program and pencil in their hands frantically play out their own parts as judges. All in spite of the fact that there is a panel of people charged with the difficult task of picking the 'best' of the bunch.

Back to those ball games.

I have to say that on more than one occasion I felt embarrassment for the kids when their parents showed their tails to the point of humiliating themselves.

Which brings me back to the topic of sportsmanship.

When you take 60 kids (remember, everyone is someone's favorite) and analyze their performance to select the top 13 for the All-star lineup, there can only be 13 - while disappointing, it is true, a fact of simple numbers.

I was told recently by one parent, (rather sarcastically, I might add, considering he was a coach) that he could not believe I was there to take pictures on All-star announcement night, since I hadn't gotten any pictures of his team through the season -something about scrapbooks was even mentioned.

While I feel compelled to apologize for not being able to cover every game in the various divisions of the league, I feel equally compelled, after some inquiry about the selection process, to say that maybe the parental example caused the child not to be selected to the ranks of All-stars.

See, this is how it goes.

On the Friday before the All-star team was announced, the coaches got together (notice that I said coaches, not Recreation Department staff) for a selection meeting. Things like batting averages, number of errors, skill, ability, and sportsmanship were all taken into account when the members of the team were chosen.

Since this was a coach who was talking to me, I wondered (and still do), why was he surprised at the outcome, and that his child was not selected?

Or perhaps he wasn't at the meeting. Did he not hear the comments made by other coaches at the meeting?

The world may never know, but one thing is for sure.

I'll bet the child, deep in his heart, is probably a better sport about it than his dad.

People remember: these children are not getting paid for this - it isn't a job, it is sport, which, to me is synonymous with fun.

So what if they didn't get chosen - let them be your superstar anyway -tell them in a constructive way that you appreciate their efforts all season.

Tell them things like, &uot;There is always next year,&uot; or even (and here's an idea), &uot;Son, I am proud of you for what you did, regardless of whether you where chosen from 60 players or not.

That's my take - take it or leave it alone, because I will still be way out there, out in Deep Left Field.