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Show some class on the sidelines

Reading about the father who was arrested for punching a youth basketball commissioner at a sixth grade basketball tournament in Burnsville last weekend is a good wake-up call at this time of the year.

We are in the time of the winter season when tournaments are under way and there is a bit more to be gained or lost by ref's quick whistle, a missed call, a coaching call and an athlete's split-second decision. Only the best, the healthiest or the luckiest can keep putting up threes, going for pins and shooting goals. You have to earn the right to keep going.

You cannot take in a sporting event without hearing someone vent their anger or frustration. The usual lightning rods are the officials. These "cops of the court" hear it all. Do they always make the right call? No. I have heard them admit to missing calls. Until technology comes up with a way to catch every infraction the human factor is going to come into play.

I knew one football coach that treated officials like they were trespassers. If the flag flew and his team drew the penalty he would always have something to say about it. I think a ref must have kicked this guy when he was a toddler. I remember thinking many times that here is a coach who should be kicked out before the game starts.

The Bible says the meek will inherit the Earth. If this is true then hockey fans will not be inheriting a dime. There are a lot of stories about hockey moms being fearsome but I know of one town where a rabid basketball mom lives. She is a nice person when her boys are not on the court but her Dr. Jekyll becomes Mrs. Hyde when the whistle blows. She starts yelling in a high-pitched voice and she does not stop until halftime. She got so annoying that the school board had to ask her to settle down or not attend the games.

As much abuse as referees take without turning a hair, there have been times when fans cross the line. One chilly evening before a football game I saw a ref give a drunken fan the boot before the game began. The guy did not wait for the game to start -- he was mouthing off as the players warmed up. The head official called the coach over and told him he would slap a penalty on his team if the drunk was still there when the game began.

Everyone knows about the loudmouth fan or the eager-beaver parent who meddles too much in the kids' fun. For the most part these types are venting frustration or just too fixed on "winning."

Once in awhile you catch a glimpse of real anger. I knew a coach many years ago that looked and acted like someone who would put on a contract on his own mother. His players were scared of him, well, most of his players. One night the coach was standing on the sidelines ragging on his players, who were playing hard but did not have a big lead. His son was playing in that game and finally his father's ragging got to him. As the players passed the bench on their transition to the other side of the court, the son deliberately lagged behind and as he passed his dad he looked him right in the eye and told him quietly, through clenched teeth, to "shut up and sit down." He was not asking, he was telling, and he meant it. His dad sat down and quieted down.

Parents can never let themselves forget the incredibly powerful influence they have over their kids. One night after a girls' basketball game the star player of the basketball team was taken to task by her own father in front of a large group of people. She was crying and he was red-faced and yelling. It was like looking into a room and seeing something no one is supposed to see.

Kids will generally get over the heartbreak of losing a big game a lot quicker than an adult. They hang their heads for awhile, they hang towels over their faces, the tears come and then it is over and time to move on again.

Don't be the parent who has to be arrested, blackballed or told to sit down by your own kid -- and for cripes sake leave that belittling lecture out of any post-game talk with your kids. You have to remember that it is easy to let your emotions run away with you when it comes to sports. Count to 10, take a deep breath and show some class.