Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's Just a Game

Usually my wife takes our second daughter to her basketball games while I stay home with the other kids. Well, this time my daughter asked me to take her. She's not quite discovered how much I hate sports, but the games only last about 45 minutes, and I have to be able to say that I went to at least one game, so I agreed to take her. My mind tends to entertain itself in even the most boring of circumstances, so I figured that the worst that could happen would be that I'd get about 45 minutes to ponder issues of deep importance (i.e., what the next addition to my Warhammer 40K army should be).

Hmmm, Predator or Close Combat Terminators?

As can be expected for a league of 1st and 2nd graders that are just learning to play, no score is kept and the refereeing is somewhat loose. Although I'm not a sports fan, I wish they would keep score if only to teach kids that it's fun to win and not the end of the world if you lose. However, the kids are enthusiastic about it and the coaches encourage the kids to work to develop their skills. I couldn't help but to notice that the least talented among the 6 year olds can still dribble and shoot a basketball better than I ever could.

The vast majority of parents at the game were politely supportive of their kids. Since I'm psychologically incapable of cheering loudly or unironically (the best I can muster is a heartfelt "huzzah" under certain circumstances), I would smile at my daughter whenever she'd look my way. Fortunately, she understands that this is how Dad gives his support. Of course, as is bound to happen, there was one particularly loud and less than supportive parent there that didn't realize that a) it was just a friendly game in a kids league and b) that she was sitting within two feet of a person who is extremely sensitive to loud noise. Thanks to her I spent a lot of the game enjoying some nervous tics I developed a few years ago.

This woman was the perfect example of the rabid sports fan, which shouldn't be confused with the enthusiastic sports fan (e.g., my own parents). The existence of the rabid sports fan is one of the myriad reasons why I dislike sports. These are people who can't distinguish between what should be an enjoyable pastime and a matter of vital, life-threatening importance. In fact, the woman (I shall refer to her as "Rabid Mom") is the worst kind of rabid fan; the one who inflicts her flawed priorities on her child and ruins any possibility that he may actually enjoy himself. The outcome of the (unscored) game is unlikely to have any long-term effect on the course of his life, but his mother's attitude may very well destroy any love he has for playing sports or, even worse, may turn him into a rabid fan as well.

"Surely my continuous screaming will
improve my son's basketball performance"

Rabid Mom felt it necessary to spend most of the game yelling at her son, Mason, to "shoot it, shoot it, SHOOT IT!", "pass the ball!", and "get under the net!". Apparently she thought that yelling the most obvious of instructions (e.g., "Get the ball!") in an irate tone would make her son a better basketball player. On several occasions, Mason failed to pass or shoot fast enough and would run out the shot clock (yes, I didn't know what this rule was called and had to look it up). Of course this led to more yelling from Rabid Mom followed by mutterings of "D*** it, what's wrong with him? Why is he such a ball hog?". I would speculate that he thinks that he has to be the star of the team to gain mom's approval. I wonder where he could have gotten such an idea?

Unfortunately, my wife confirms that Rabid Mom isn't alone and that many of the games have seen other parents behave similarly. I have to admit that I am utterly perplexed that there are so many people who believe that this is appropriate behavior at a children's basketball game. The worst part is that they seem to be completely unselfconscious about it. Are they honestly so obsessed about the game that they fail to notice that nobody else is yelling at their son or daughter and that they're ruining the fun for everybody else?

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