Clearing the bleachers

Clearing the bleachers could be a glorious description of a home run ball landing in the San Francisco bay outside AT&T park.  In one of my childhood little league games, it meant something completely different. 

It was an important playoff game in the 12 and under division.  Our Farm Bureau Co-op team was up against our bitter rival sponsored by Fout’s Tire.  The game was close and the volunteer umpire was doing his best to call a fair game.  All of our proud parents were assembled in the aluminum bleachers with sunglasses and paper fans to offset the Indiana humidity. 

In the 5th inning, the parents got upset about several questionable ball and strike calls and started yelling at the umpire. He ignored them at first, but the yelling escalated into insults and downright hostility.

I was playing third base, which gave me a clear view of the bleachers.  That’s when the ump called a walk for the batter because our pitcher lifted his foot off the pitching mound rubber after starting his wind-up motion.  If you don’t know what that means, it doesn’t really matter.  To the moms and dads in the bleachers, it was like the end of the world.

I had never seen such a display of profanity, fist-pumping and name-calling in my short life.  And it was coming from the alleged role models we were supposed to look up to.  As the mob mentality kicked in, the insults became threats.  I pulled my cap down over my eyes as I nervously tapped my shoe against the dusty third base bag. 

That’s when Mr. umpire decided he had had enough.  “You’re ALL outta here!!”  He made a sweeping gesture with his arm and demanded that all parents clear the bleachers before the game would continue.  My fellow teammates and I stood there motionless as our parents made their way out to their cars parked beyond the home run fence, spouting a few obscenities along the way. 

I hung my head in shame.  I just wanted to play ball.

Flash forward to today. I was a soccer dad for 13 years and helped coach my son’s team. If you have a child in sports, I truly understand what you go through when your kid is knocked down or gets an unfair call from a referee.  I want to congratulate the majority of you who get your youngsters involved in team sports and cheer them on with positive enthusiasm.  But the next time you find yourself next to one of “those parents” who need a little anger management, why not speak up or clear them from the bleachers yourself?

The kids just want to play ball.

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8 Comments on “Clearing the bleachers”

  1. David's Mom Says:

    Just for the record, I wasn’t one of those parents! I never understood that kind of behavior. I wouldn’t want to embarass my children.

    • davidgoad Says:

      Sorry Mom I should have been more specific. It was not ALL the parents who were acting up, especially my loving and under-control mother 🙂

  2. Mark v Says:

    Mr. Goad,
    While your example has an extreem result, the unfortunate thing is that there are subtle actions that also go on that are unbelievable to me. Changing schedules (after it was posted) so that a team can go to the playoffs. Moving chains ahead (football) so that the other team doesn’t make the first down. Teaching kids to tackle even though it’s a flag football game. Parents nearly fist fighting on the sidelines. Unfortunately I could go on and on with my personal experiences.
    So…right on to you! Let the kids play and learn the lessons that sports SHOULD teach you.
    Thank God for the good coaches out there that set the example for the kids and let the parents know that they won’t put up with poor behavior from the kids or the parents.
    On a side note. I hope you and your family are awsome!

    • davidgoad Says:

      Hey Mr. V nice to hear from you! I think sports are popular because they are filled with emotion and unpredictability. A few parents can’t draw the line between protecting their young children and letting them experience life. I myself have been guilty of “coaching too much” but I learned to let go as my son got older.
      There are so many great sports coaches, parents AND referees out there. We need to overshadow the few who try to ruin it.

  3. Kristie Says:

    DG – I remember very well those days at the Russiavlle Little League ballpark watching my brothers play ball. I was so embarrassed by the few bad egg adults that I spent most of my time in the concession stand eating hot dogs and candy necklaces. It is a humiliating experience for children to see the adults behave this way and to this day, I might be able to spit out a few names of those very parents as they do leave quite a lasting impression.

  4. Roland Says:

    Man oh man…. This is “good call,” Dave. One of my daughters played softball and one played soccer. It was amazing to me how many parents and sideline coaches added their energy to the game, and not always good energy.

    The only time I spouted any profanity, and it happened only once, it was directed at the coach of my daughter’s soccer team.

    He was such a whiner! He was casting such a cloudy overtone to the game, irritating parents, who were being good supporters, and the team members who were playing their hearts out. His comments were not constructive, and his personal anguish was way to apparent.

    I finally went to stand behind him and said something like, “Hey, you’d better put a cap on that XXXX right now!” He didn’t turn to face me, and kept watching his team… but the tirade stopped… and we all relaxed a bit more… and hopefully, his now tortured team had a bit of a reprieve from his negativity and could play the game as well as they could.

    … We took my daughter off the team after that game.

    The anger can come from anywhere. But there is no room for anger in sports… even though the hockey players and fans may disagree! LOL!

    Let them PLAY! Here! Here!


    • davidgoad Says:

      Nice job speaking up Roland!
      Most coaches are volunteers, and the only requirement is that you are willing to put in the time. No real training. I was assistant coach for Evan’s teams when he was young, and my main goal (in addition to teaching fundamentals) was to get the kids pumped up before the game with a funny military chant “I don’t know but I’ve been told…” and to capture great moments on video to show them at the end of the season 🙂

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