While watching the evening news on television last night I witnessed an embarrassing fight between parents at a 12-year old softball game. The game and the fight took place in Kingsport, Tennessee, which to me makes it doubly embarrassing. The game was between a couple of North Carolina teams at the Brickyard softball complex in a USA Softball Tournament. There were no arrests nor were there any injuries, though at least six men or more were involved.
What started the melee you ask? Comments made regarding umpires' calls. The video of the fight was posted on facebook and went viral, with more than 340,000 views in 48 hours.
The sad part of all this is the fact that both teams were disqualified from this tournament as well as any other USA event this year. The teams were disqualified not the parents. Because of the actions of a few idiotic parents, these 12 year old kids have to suffer.
I've been around baseball and softball for many years as a player, coach and umpire. I have written before about a fight or two I was involved in as a player years ago, but I never fought. I tried to be a peacemaker. The closest I have ever been to fighting at a baseball or softball game was just a few years ago at an NSA Tournament that I was umpiring at Warner Park. It was very hot in a game near the middle of the day and I was pulled off a 14 and under game to fill in on an 8 and under game that was being played at Frost Stadium. Against my better judgement I agreed to call the game. Both teams were from out of town and I could tell things were going to be very heated. I was calling the bases and the plate umpire made more than just a few questionable calls. The fans from one team especially, really got on the plate umpire and things really began to get out of hand.
One parent loudly began to curse, and I called time and told him to sit down and be quiet. He proceeded to threaten me and continued to be loud and obnoxious. I tossed him out of the game, and that brought the ire of several more parents who were sitting near him. I wanted out of there badly. I was being threatened even though the other umpire made the calls that made the guy so upset. We were finally able to finish the game and as I left the field, the guy was waiting for me near the gateway to the umpires dressing room. The guy was at least half my age, but being tossed from the game did nothing to calm him down. Several other people got between us, which likely prevented a fight. While he struggled to get to me, I told him, " You can whip me if you can but remember this. If I whip you, you've been beaten by a sixty year old man. If you whip me, you whipped a sixty year old man, and either way, you're going to jail."
In Tennessee if you assault a game official, there is a mandatory jail sentence. I don't know if it was that threat that calmed him down or if he finally came to his senses. I'm glad he did because the last thing I wanted to do was fight the guy. Thankfully, the kids really weren't aware of what went on. That wasn't the case this past weekend in Kingsport. The brawl took place right in front of them and the young ladies were only able to stand by in tears and watch.
Parents should know better. The game is for the kids not the parents. Thankfully, incidents like this one are few and far between but even one event like that puts a black eye on youth sports. Remember, kids watch their parents closely. And unless you want them to act inappropriately think twice before you do something you will be ashamed of later.
Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org