Page after page of bad sportsmanship offerings are available on YouTube -- everything from pee-wee football atrocities to angry dads taking to the mat at wrestling matches, brutalizing their sons' opponents; to Philadelphia Eagles fans pelting their opponents' fans with a tonnage of hard snowballs - thrown MLB pitcher style -- with enough force and speed to necessitate emergency room visits for the poor guys wearing the jackets that aren't midnight green and silver. (See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvXNjfXbUaQ)
Running up the score has always led to outrage, particularly in high school sports. Adolescents are at a tender emotional age and killing the opposing team has always been a big no-no. In December of 2012 in Indiana, Arlington High School's girls basketball team annihilated a competing team 107-2, backfiring on the winning team's home victory with very big losses in the national media limelight: ESPN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and radio stations coast to coast were interested in this story and rang Arlington High's phone off the hook. This devastation of an opposing rival isn't new, however. In 2009, Texas Covenant School's girls' basketball team cremated Dallas Academy 100-0.
When Mark Twain quipped, "It's good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling" America's great literary saint had no idea bad sportsmanship would ever come to this level of nuclear attack and ball-all-logical warfare.
The Saint Louis Sports Commission rules on the country's most vile examples of poor sportsmanship, with the focus being on how teens and even pre-teens are effected. In 2012's report, which looked at incidents from 2011, topping the list was New Canaan, Conn.'s coaching staff of a youth football team. These supposed trusted servants of children took so vehemently to their team's third-place finish that after their awards banquet at season's end, the youngsters were taken to a nearby park, the coaches made the kids throw their trophies into a pile, then the coaches poured gasoline on the trophies and set them on fire. Another incident making the list was the assault of a referee in Sarasota, Fla., which led to three football coaches and a 14-year-old player being charged with assault and battery. Another wall-of-shame moment involved a Detroit middle school football coach putting on a football helmet, challenging a 13-year-old player to tackle him one-on-one, with the mismatch resulting in the child taking a crushing blow leading to a broken collarbone. (6)
It's always been touted that playing sports helps children build character. Athletics are good for the soul. It helps children develop not only physically, but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. But maybe this is hyped up, too. In early November, 2013, news broke of a football coach who wanted to take his team to a restaurant not known so much for its food, but for its skimpily clad, buxom waitresses, who oftentimes flirt with customers.
Taking adolescent boys to a place that bills itself as "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined," is in very poor taste and is way-over-the-top for adolescent boys' cognitive processes. But Coach Randy Burbach remained adamant and insisted his 7th and 8th grade football team have their post-season dinner at a Portland, Ore., area Hooters restaurant. In a KATU interview, Burbach said, "Yes, this is worth losing my coaching job over." He also admitted Hooters isn't a "pizza parlor."
The school's athletic director, J.P. Soulagnet, said he spoke to many people about Hooters as a location for this post-season get-together. "I started off the conversation by posing a question, 'Outside of a bar, tavern, or strip club where would be the next worse place in the lines of restaurants to take a middle-school football team to?' Time after time the reply was Hooters," Soulagnet said. (7)
During the autumn of 2007 in central New York state, online forums and letters to the editor of local newspapers buzzed about Westhill High School's varsity football team defeating winless LaFayette/Fabius-Pompey 90-0. The Post-Standard, Syracuse's leading daily, published essays and examples of high school students who wrote about and practiced good sportsmanship. In her essay, Kate Wawro, a Westhill High School freshman and a member of the cross country team, wrote: "The coach of a team winning by a wide margin should put in the alternates who don't normally get a chance to play." (8)
Yes, this very worthwhile piece of advice came from a child's pen. At one time, what Kate advocates in her Post-Standard essay was an unwritten rule of any high school sporting event. But with today's engenderment of state rankings directly tied into high scores (giving a lift to a school's state ranking), this golden rule has been tarnished beyond repair.
With sports involving children (and let's remember that even upperclassmen high school students are children), good sportsmanship and bad sportsmanship are directly correlated to how adults react. "Kids who have coaches who care only about being in first place and say that 'anything goes as long as they win,' pick up the message that it's okay to be ruthless on the field. If parents constantly pressure them to play better or second-guess their every move, kids get the message that they're only as good as their last good play -- and they'll try anything to make one." (9)
It's always been touted that playing sports during pre-teen and adolescent years is a great way for children to build character, build stable friendships, and spawn habits of physical conditioning that usually continues throughout life. Sports can help mold your kid into a great adult, was the buzz phrase of Baby Boomer parents, and has been megaphoned about now, towards Baby Boomers who have children, and even grandchildren. Really, though? Is playing for a terrible team good? On the flip side, is playing for a league-dominating juggernaut good? Can a child become a victim of bullying due to a passion to be a team member? Can athletes with superior skills adopt a bullying mindset when their teams destroy opponents on the playing field, on the track, the mat, or in the gymnasium?
A parent of a Fort Worth, Texas, area high school student filed a legal bullying complaint after undefeated Aledo High School's football team pummeled Western Hills 91-0. After 21 plays, Aledo's coach pulled his starters, kept to a ground game, even let the clock run down, but still his Bearcats managed the walloping victory. (10)
"It wasn't good for anybody," Bearcats' Coach Tim Buchanan said of the mid-October, 2013, win over Western Hills in a Class 4A matchup. "I've sat and gone over and over and over it on what we could have done differently. The score could have very easily been 150 to nothing."
Even John Naylor, Western Hills' coach, did not agree with the bullying allegations by a parent; but this parent claims that Aledo's coaches "should have made their players ease up and quit playing so hard." (10)
"There is no such thing as sportsmanship," Terrell Davis, longtime Denver Bronco and Georgia Bulldogs running back once said. And although this can be construed as a cynical view, it's being played out more and more in athletic contests nationwide, from the midget league to the NFL.
What kind of example are we giving to our children with fans' longstanding hideous tradition of booing Santa Claus (and even throwing snowballs at St. Nick when the clouds provide snow in the stands); college and professional sports' coaches and players being hit with bottles and metallic objects from fans who really belong in jail; group brawls in large arenas necessitating undercover police officers to sit nondescript among "the faithful;" riots and lootings in some urban areas after wins and losses resulting in destroyed parked autos, broken storefront windows, utility poles being toppled; "negative" cheering at games after an opposing player is injured; and tailgating get-togethers involving the opposing team's bus being pelted with bottles and rocks? (11)