Friday, July 12, 2013

Theory 8: In youth sports, parents are the true performers.



I come from a long line of multi-sport athletes. So, despite my personal lack of talent (See Theory 5: Play a sport, even if you suck at it), when Sharky, age 5, debuted in tee ball, I expected genetic skill to skip through and shine. At the first game, a batter knocked a bullet off the tee and Sharky snagged it. Out! What a stud! I was elated! But, the coach gave a different boy the game ball. I was miffed. I complained to Delicious, who counseled, “Bug, if you’re going to watch your child play sports, you’re going to have to get control of yourself.” Sharky has played in at least 200 baseball games and 100 basketball games since then.  I try to stay composed, but even the most well-mannered mama and papa bears take a step back in evolution when our cubs are under pressure or “mistreated.” We’ve got scoreboards for the kiddos, but parents’ behavior is hard to track.  I thank my crowd for helping me label what we see at games. I’m keeping descriptions pretty general so as not to identify anyone. I mean, we are talking about teachers, preachers, social workers, doctors, bankers, repairmen, and accountants, after all. So, which of these performing parents are you?

The Gnome consoles Tall Child after umpires kicked him off the field


Make-the-Mosters: From my friend “Baton Swiper” who is married to former UT musician “Stud Trombone” - Well, once there were these beautiful over-zealous mom’s who created a run-through sign, boom box music, and opening excitement for their sons [kindergarten] basketball team. Baton Swiper and I graciously wrote both teams’ players’ names on paper and held the banner’s edges. After a pre-game bathroom break, the little boys lined up. Trombone Stud hit play. The teams ripped onto the court to warm-up.  Some parents probably thought we were nuts, but some of their boys will never rip through paper again. In one of our last games, I said to the other team’s coach (who looked unhappy—probably because we’d beaten him three times already), “Hey, we’re going to line up to run through the paper in about two minutes.” He pouted, “My team will NOT be running through your paper!” Hint: If you do the paper thing, be sure to poke holes. When Sharky did a practice run at home, his then 44 lb. body hit that banner with full force, and with equal force shot backward into the wall.
From my aunt, “Terrific”: I was always the "Boom Box" lady for A-Boo’s preppy yet fierce “The Yummyville School” softball teams...age 9-17. I probably went a little overboard with song selections...including a rousing round of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" at the conclusion of victories, which were numerous.  Other teams and coaches despised "The Yummyville School" team. Later, A-Boo played collegiate golf for Vanderbilt. During her sophomore year she was paired against a University of Alabama player at a golf tournament in Athens, GA. As small talk progressed, we discovered that the Bama golfer had played high school softball for our elite competitors in Oconee. When she realized we were from "The Yummyville School" she exclaimed, "Oh, that's the team with the OBNOXIOUS Boom Box Lady!" A-Boo hung her head, pointed at me (her mother) and said "Yep, and that would be her."
Outfielders: They sit alone way down the first base line or they stand in the gym corner. Maybe they’re nervous, maybe they’re focused on the game, maybe they’re doing some intense one-on-one parent-child coaching. Or, maybe they just don’t want to hear the women in the bleachers swap recipes and talk about “The Walking Dead.” Sorry, guys.
Budgeteers: Gate passes, $3 nachos, gas, hotels, and Gatorades add up fast. Why not tuck your body between a cooler, a bat bag, and a stadium throw in the back of your SUV? Don’t breathe. And, once you are in, don’t leave.
On-The-Road-Off-Duty Parents: Parents (typically male) who forsake normal supervisory responsibilities on road trips. Post-match, they crowd the hotel lobby to imbibe adult juice boxes and rehash game highlights as their children (also typically male) ride elevators, vandalize the hotel work-out facilities, and ding-dong-ditch unfortunate hotel room neighbors.  
I once asked a mother, who was obviously worn out from keeping up with five children at an out of town tourney in suffocating humidity, “Where are your little ones?” She sighed, “They are either on the playground or in a van half-way to Michigan.”
These parents’ children score lots of bling: Phiten necklaces, tourney t-shirts, sunglasses, etc.
Rule Freaks: Those who, as Terrific likes to say, are “often wrong but never in doubt.” Rule Freaks like to second-guess the umpires, forgetting that different age groups and leagues have different rules. Rule freaks also question players’ ages, as in “That boy can not be 11 years old and be that tall.” When your mama is 6’4 and looks like an Auburn linebacker, yes, you can be that tall.
One-Time One-Liners: Guilty. Sometimes I do this one just for my own amusement. These parents have a combo flash of bravado and wit. In the safe cloud of fan noise, we scream out mean things we’d never say anywhere else, like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?”, “Are you stupid?”, or my favorite, “You suck!”  One of my own relatives yelled at a female referee, “Get back to your ironing board!” Funny, but kind of mean, right? Still. Funny.
Lobbyists: These parents kiss up to the coach, sweet-talk the coach’s wife, and criticize other players, hoping to get their children more playing time. As a coach’s wife, I like these parents because they help organize team parties and order trophies!
Paranoid Schizophrenics: Some parents are convinced their child is about to get cut. There’s so much at stake: college scholarships, the draft on TV where all the turd nay-sayers will eat crow, the NBA/NFL lifestyle, the quan! As the child sits out a quarter or inning, these parents look intensely quiet and nervous. Sometimes they whisper to one another. But, when the child hits an RBI or a buzzer-beater, they high-five and test their bras and belts with vigorous middle-aged jumping jacks!
Worriers: Parents (typically women) who squeal and gasp every time their angels foul hard, collide, or go full-speed coast to coast toward a backboard and the wall behind it, with only four-pads of skimpy protection. They cover all sharp corners, close bleachers, and concrete stairs at Rocky Hill Elementary. Whew.
Space Hogs – Some of us have back problems, okay? We get a good comfy spot on the top bleacher where we can lean. Ahhhh. Or, a shady spot behind the backstop. Relaxing. Great view of every play. Why should we leave just because our team isn’t playing again for two hours. Competition at its toughest. If you want to see the mother of the super-stud athlete with un-teachable competitive drive, just scan the backstop or the top bleacher.
Out of Touchers: Once, a mother asked Tall Child to change the tournament schedule because her son wanted to go to a birthday party.
My friend, Ole Miss Glamour Girl (OMGG) once interrupted baseball practice because she had dinner reservations. Here’s how it went down:
OMGG yelled across the field to her son, “Phenom” get your stuff. We have to leave!”
Coach: “What?!? No!”
OMGG yelled, “We have dinner reservations!”
Coach: “It’s Tuesday!”
OMGG: “It’s Cinco De Mayo!”
Coach: “You’re not Mexican!”
Now, OMGG is one of my best buds. She knows how to have a good time. We threw a tailgate complete with sandwich platters, adult juice boxes, tablecloths, and flowers. Think: The Grove at Ole Miss. She also once said, “How can that umpire tell if it’s a ball or a strike? He’s standing behind the base!”
Annoyers:  Wrong, not Christian, but I HATE the lady who shook a plastic bottle full of coins for an entire ballgame in Orlando, Florida. I complained to the concession stand woman. Her response? “I’m in food.” Really? You know it’s bad when you are strategizing with an eight grader about how to take down a granny. Watch out coin lady! Who’s got my back?
Grandparents: Speaking of grannies, Delicious and Boppy are not fans of the bunt. Even if Sharky was 0 for 12 three weekends in a row, they are 100% certain he can hit a grand slam, if only the coach will give the signal.

Pouters : Parents and Daddy Ball Coaches who stomp off the field and say, “Get your bag.” One Daddy Ball Coach refused (for two seasons) to give Tall Child the “good game” hand shake. Not even a fist bump. He/his son was robbed, I am sure.
Hecklers: Parents who harass the coaches, the referees, the other teams’ coaches, the other teams’ fans, and their own children. I save my commentary for Tall Child for the car ride home. IF, IF, IF I ride home with him. You should see how he mistreats my super-athletic, often misunderstood baby Sharky sometimes! I mean, I never got that kind of treatment in the band!
Trout over-heckled the refs at Roscoe’s college basketball game, and the refs said, “You are out of here! Leave this gym!” Trout pointed at himself, and mouthed, “Me?” He’d driven a long way to watch Roscoe and was not about to leave. So, he faked them out and sneaked up to the balcony seats.
Division Ones: These parents have genetic confidence and nothing to prove (no vicarious ambition) as they were successful in their own glory days. They know the rules, so they don’t argue. They are tall, so they don’t fight for the top bleacher or backstop seats. Umps recognize their frames and gaits as “having been there” and give them the cool-rod nod.
Snappers: No one is immune. My kind-hearted, loving, philanthropic sister-in-law, the “Dogwood Debutante,” became irate after her nephew Sharky lost to Sumner County. No doubt cheated by refs, we exited in defeat and the winning team celebrated. Dogwood Deb lost her cool and screamed, “Go back home to Slumner County!”
After one baseball game, I saw a woman freak out so hard I expected to see her leave in a straight jacket. She screeched and thrashed like a wild animal. Luckily, she was inside the scorekeeper’s chain-link protective box. She was in a “cage rage.”
At the end of a basketball game, I watched in horror as a granny went postal on her grandson. She kept saying, “You look at me when I’m talkin’ to you!” He couldn’t. She had A & P eyes (one faced the Atlantic, the other the Pacific—the murky one). Think: Infected. 
So, as your child winds up to pitch, steps back in the pocket to throw, or sets up his shot, answer this question: How do you perform? Are you civilized in the shadows, or does the animal you come out to play?
See you next post. Until then, think outside the barn!

Check out these wild spectators ready to pounce on Sharky!
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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...