Column: When did fun walk off the field?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2005

In a time when pro athletes are under investigation for allegedly taking part in inappropriate actions on a boat many sports fans like myself turn to the lower levels of athletics to help us remember why we love these games.

No doubt you have heard or read on several occasions that high school sports are one of the last ‘pure’ forms of athletics.

It is a chance to watch someone playing the game simply because they enjoy playing it.

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No shoe contracts or trading card commitments supercede the love of the game.

However, after hearing about some actions that took place during a junior high football game last week between Albert Lea and Austin it makes me wonder if sports at any level really are ever played just for the fun of it.

During the game an opposing coach became a little too vocal when instructing his team leading to someone or multiple people in the crowd throwing batteries at him.

Obviously, the behavior exhibited by the coach and fans is unacceptable at any level, and since I

was not at the game I cannot say with any certainty if the coach was completely out of line or who threw what.

But the bigger concern to me is the fact that things like these are happening during seventh and eighth grade football games.

When I hear things like that it makes me wonder.

I wonder why fans, parents and coaches are so consumed with winning at such a young age that they cannot simply go to the game and enjoy watching the kids running around playing for the best reason &045; for the fun of it.

I wonder when it all changed.

Growing up, whenever I took part in any sport my parents were there, but they did not have a bag of batteries in tow just in case they didn’t like what they saw.

I wonder how incidents like this affect the kids on the field.

If events like this are becoming more common do the players simply dread the idea of having to take part in sports for the next five or

six years.

The desire to win shown by some has also caused issues in our own town.

Because of incidents that took place last week spectators were only allowed on one side of the field to keep the onlookers &045; and any potential problems &045; away from the coaches and players.

Talking with middle school Activities Director Brenda Morris it was obvious that a large majority of those who come to watch their kids play do so in a respectful manner.

However, there have been issues in recent years she never thought she would have to deal with.

Roping off sidelines is just the latest development.

Finding coaches for youth athletics has become increasingly more difficult.

While she points out that pay and the extra time commitment certainly play a part there is also no denying that the pressures put on them by parents who want their child to play or their child to do this or that is also a factor.

At this level, Albert Lea abides by the practice that everyone who comes out for the team plays.

Sounds like the perfect idea to me, but evidently some do not agree and that is a shame.

Many sports fans &045; myself included &045; like to play the role of coach and GM when watching sports.

Professional players, coaches and owners are paid handsomely for what they do, and part of that is giving the fans what they want.

But when it comes to kids playing sports I can only hope that fun &045; not winning &045; finds its way back on top of everyone’s priority list.