Wood's Word: Quiet in the crowd!

As nerve-racking as it can be to try to succeed during sporting events, I’m afraid that more tension and fear may be originated from the spectators in the stands.

And not just any brand of spectator — nay! I refer to the mother of all spectators (pun intended)! I dedicate this column to the athletes’ parents.

While I focus these words mostly on the parents of pre-adult athletes, I’m sure that parental support will continue forever — fueled by love, care and the desire to show off a winner. I’m guessing that the only thing scarier than matching up against an NFL lineman would be facing this player’s upset mother after her boy walks off a loser.

I heard today of an interesting situation that recently took place at a local high school basketball game. The two teams that played are currently ranked very highly within their region and at the state level as well.

After a close contest against one another a few weeks ago, the two schools met for a well-attended rematch. Students and parents from both schools filled the crowded gymnasium, and the rematch setup was very promising.

The competition went down to the wire and ended with an overtime victory for the home team (who’d lost a few weeks before). While it was an impressive game and an appealing story, what seemed more surprising (not really) were the comments concerning the actions of the parents in the crowd. Observations were made that many groups of parents from both sides were seen confronting one another and picking fights once the game had ended. The behavior was such that police involvement was necessary.

A parent’s attitude surely influences their sportster’s overall athletic experience. As a former marching band and quiz bowl warrior, I am grateful that my parents recognized my overall level of athletic talent early on and kept me from any involvement in extra-physical competition (because I would have messed up every last one of them). I was, however, welcomed to heave my fair share of half-court bombs during my organized church-ball games (“. . . I was open, Coach!”). My father came to many of my games and silently sat on the sideline in tasteful support despite my obvious talent. I never felt nervous or afraid to disappoint him. Or afraid he would yell at someone else on my behalf.

I do remember, nonetheless, the actions of a certain red-faced father who decided it was in his boy’s best interest to shriek at the referee and get himself thrown out of the gym (during more than one game). But it was for his son . . . wasn’t it?

We were 12 years old. We were playing in a church. Red Face’s son was on the winning team. What was his father thinking?

I know what I was thinking: “Man, I can’t wait to open up that box of Capri Sun.”

I am, deep down, convinced that these actions come from the love of a parent. No one wants their child to be called a . . . a . . . (hint: one who does not win). But really, competition will always produce not-winners. This shouldn’t reflect on the image of the parent, nor should it justify them to flare up their ego.

Maybe my passive attitude comes from experience and understanding. My family and I have a nice history of playing on below-average teams. My father’s junior high basketball team lost a game with a score of 95-17. I pitched for a city recreation team in sixth grade and hit four straight batters in one game (two below the belt). My brother was a goalie on a youth soccer team whose largest margin of defeat read 32-0.

The point is that, while the games are fun, they need to be viewed with a lighthearted attitude. Are any of us really going straight to the NBA? Probably not. Will we feel better about ourselves if our kids do? Maybe. But it shouldn’t reflect on us personally, and it needs to be OK if they lose a lot along the way. They probably will. What will be remembered most is the examples they were given and how they were supported.

Still . . . the score was 32-0. What a loser.