I went to a little league football game.
To be transparent and upfront about it I am related to the coach I’m going to write about and one of the players. But I’m not much into sports right now. I’m full on into activity but not so much sports. If there is ‘a’ sport I know something about, it’s football. Though I can’t coach from the sidelines or quarterback from the armchair I can follow the game.
We show up before the half, in time to watch the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters.
“My” team, who I have never seen before and only have an affinity for because of one young player, had scored once. The other team had scored once. Tie game.
From the time I arrived until the game was over I saw the other team have one penalty called. “Our” team had ten or eleven penalties called. I was a little stunned at the missed calls and apparently over looked calls. It got to the point where I was embarrassed for the officials. And upset the coach on the other team wasn’t even saying anything. It was that bad.
I witnessed one play where one of our players was standing upright and was plowed in to by a player on the other team, I heard the crash of the helmets and ‘our’ player go flat out on his back. There was no call. I was stunned. Again, to be fair, my husband said he thought it was a good hit from what he saw. I disagree, but okay. That was only one play. I witnessed holding. I witnessed shoving from the back. And I don’t know what some of the things I saw from the other team were called, other than “unsportsmanlike” behavior. One play ended with the opposing team player on top of our player, there was a grab and slam of the player on the ground as the opposing team player got up. Wow, was what I thought. What, exactly, are these kids being taught.
The one penalty I witnessed called against the other team, in three quarters, ended with the coach on the opposing team angry and yelling at the refs. I was shocked. And I heard some of the parents behind me say “he’s really going to argue that?” Our coach encouraged others to let it go. He didn’t want to waste time on the ridiculousness of what was going on.
There were only a few minutes left to play and we had another relative to go watch in another football game. I was saying my goodbyes when it happened. Another gut wrenching helmet into another one of our players. One of those sounds that is never good. On any football field.
“Our” coach reacted when the officials did not call it.
Our coach was loudly expressing his concern to the officials for not calling the play. The officials were expressing their dislike of our coach’s reaction.
The officiating team encouraged a response from our coach by making ‘statements’ to him about his inappropriateness. Our coach countered with he “would be wrong then, if it meant sticking up for the safety of his players”. If they felt that was wrong he said again, “I’ll be wrong all day long if it means protecting my players”. They ejected him from the game.
Up to this point the supporters of our team were encouraging and complementary. As the coach walked off the field as he was told to do, the team supporters intensified their encouragement. They told the kids to protect themselves, they needed to. They cheered the players to keep playing, even though the game was ‘lost’ I knew the lessons were not.
For all of the frustration these families had to sit there and stomach I was impressed with what followed.
I stood there as the ‘losing’ team came off of the field. The supporters clapped loudly and cheered them. I noticed the other team, on the other side, walked off to a quiet and no-response side line. There was no cheering on the other side of the field. None.
On this side I heard calls of “good job”, “good season”, “great effort”. Nothing but positive comments.
After the game the coach returned to his team to talk with them. I saw parents shake his hand.
I know emotions are high in the little league, bitty league world of sports. I know parents have a difficult time, maybe even more so than the kids, when their kids lose. I know sometimes we should just be quiet and accept the official’s calls.
But sometimes….the officials are wrong.
Maybe the coach shouldn’t have yelled at the official. But when he said to the offical “I’ll be wrong all day long if it means protecting my players” I had to agree.