The worst acts from October to December, 2009 were:
1. Bad acts in women’s soccer gained national notoriety. An ugly brawl involving players and spectators at the Rhode Island girls’ state high school soccer championship combined with a University of New Mexico college player who was caught on film committing a series of dirty and exceedingly physical plays led the national sports media to reflect on the state of women’s sports. It was almost as if the national media discovered that women can compete intensely, commit dirty plays and engage in bad acts … kind of like, dare I say, men. So our first bad act shows women at their worst. Yet, by displaying their worst qualities the Rhode Island girls and Elizabeth Lambert (the New Mexico soccer player caught on film playing dirty) served as an example of the intensity of women’s athletics.
2. The Rhode Island incident, and the college women’s soccer incident gained national notoriety, but the absolute worst incident occurred after a Rochester, N.Y. adult semi-pro football game. A player attacked referee Peter McCabe from behind, hitting McCabe with his helmet. McCabe’s nose was detached and virtually every bone in his face was broken. The player has been charged with first-degree felony assault. Now, we usually focus on bad acts in youth and high school sports but this attack on a referee illustrated the dangers that referees, umpires and other sports officials face whenever they take the field or court. The simple fact of the matter is that players, coaches, and spectators (including parents) are a threat to sports officials, and likely commit thousands of attacks on sports officials each year. The attack on McCabe occurred while New York Assembly Bill 829 , criminalizing batteries against sports officials, is pending. Here’s hoping that Assembly Bill 829 passes.
3. In a rather strange incident that illustrates how much we overvalue high school sports, a 22-year old man posed as an Arizona High School student. Why would anybody want to go back to high school? To play basketball, that’s why! This case doesn’t seem too awful; indeed, it may even seem amusing. However, when we overvalue sports, we open the door for a wide array of misconduct. This incident may have differed in form from most bad acts, but it stems from the same source: a person placed too high a value on sports, and lacked the discipline to pursue that which he valued with the discipline and grace that ultimately makes sports worthwhile. It is not surprising that this 22-year old man engaged in a series of alleged other crimes during his short – but oh too long – tenure as a high school student. In truth, there is nothing amusing about this incident.
4. A clash of values between people who lacked the wherewithal to properly resolve a dispute led to a strange and ugly incident in Eaton, CO in October. Two youth football teams scheduled a game. One team had an 11-year old girl on its team. The other team refused to play against a team with a girl. In a situation that presented nothing but bad options, the coaches chose the worst. They duked it out, and then stormed off without playing the game. This incident had it all: disputes over women in sports; parents confronting coaches and coaches fighting each other. Ugliness prevailed all the way around.
5. Referees had a tough quarter. The adult semi-pro incident wasn’t the only particularly bad attack on referees. In October, a spectator tried to hit a referee with a chair during a Hackleburg High School (Alabama) football game.
In each listing of “bad acts” I will point out a good act, program or organization. In December, the CBS College Sports Network acknowledged the importance of good sportsmanship, televising the AT&T National Sportsmanship Awards. This is the first time that the National Sportsmanship Awards have been televised nationally, and it’s one of the few times that a national network has devoted an entire time slot to a message of sportsmanship. A number of outstanding high school students were honored, including Darius McNeal, the Illinois high school player who intentionally missed two free throws so the opposing team wouldn’t be penalized for using a player who wasn’t on the roster. The non-roster player wasn’t expected to play because his mother had died earlier that day. Darius understood that something bigger was at stake. Also honored were the members of the Monte Vista High School boys’ basketball team, who raised money to help McClymonds High School of Oakland fund its trip to the California state basketball championship after losing to McClymonds in the state semifinals. Talk about classy losers.