When Deadspin polled readers to find out who the “worst sports parents” are in America, I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find that baseball parents top the list.
I must admit that cheerleading coming in at the number two spot took me aback. I live in Texas where cheerleading moms occasionally hire hit men to cut down rivals, so it’s not a complete surprise, but with all the other possible sports, I just didn’t expect it to come in so high.
Basketball parents can be a little rough as a group, but for the most part they mind their manners. I did have to laugh, however, last year when my son’s fourth grade select basketball team met a team sponsored by a church where all the parents wore yellow t-shirts with the statement “We Bust Ours to Beat Yours!” emblazoned across their chest. As we say in Texas, “them are fightin words,” but since we did beat “theirs” anyway (with a couple of their moms being thrown out at the beginning of the game), it didn’t seem too bad.
Still, nothing compares to baseball. For some reason, a sport where ninety percent of the time players are standing around kicking dirt, spitting sunflower seeds, or adjusting various parts of their anatomy, seems like it would be so tame and civilized that nothing untoward could possibly happen.
Youth baseball inspires parental bad behavior of the worst kind.
First, there is the propensity for cheating. Ever wonder why there are steroids in baseball? Perhaps, it begins with the example parents set when they encourage cheating in all aspects of the game.
Last year, for example, as the Team Mom for my son’s baseball team, I innocently went to the local baseball store to purchase baseballs for the team at a discount. An employee there tried to “help” me by showing me all the options and the various discounts I could get.
“These are expensive,” he told me as he pointed to a box of a dozen baseballs priced at about five dollars a ball. “You could buy these other ones for less and if you bake them in the oven they’ll travel a lot farther. In fact, you can bake any of these balls and they’ll carry more.”
He looked around and then lowered his voice.
“If you call me at this number,” he explained handing me a card, “I can meet you up here sometime and sell you the expensive ones for less. I sell them myself cheaper.”
I declined his offer, but I did learn something.
Later, I asked another parent if he ever heard of baking baseballs.
“Oh sure,” he replied.
“Isn’t that cheating?” I asked.
“Of course it is,” he told me laughing, “but lots of these guys do it.”
As the Team Mom, I was also required to bring to every tournament a book containing the roster and a copy of the birth certificate for every player on the team. Evidently, over the years, some players’ parents and coaches had figured that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they tried to pass off a few twelve-year-olds as nine-year-olds in 9U tournaments. Tournament officials caught on and now require proof of age eligibility before a player can participate in a tournament. I have every confidence, however, that some of these enterprising parents will stay one step ahead of them and that eventually you’ll have to submit a DNA sample as well.
Then there’s the actual game itself.
As parents, we are supposed to set the example for behavior and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, few parents live up to that charge.
In youth baseball, the umpires are known simply as “Blue.” All through a game, you hear parents on both sides hollering, “What’s wrong with you Blue? Are you blind? That wasn’t a strike.”
Sometimes a kid will get up to bat and you’ll hear a parent holler, “Easy out!” Naturally, that sets off the batters’ family who then wants to “knock out” the parent on the other team who hollered that.
Another little trick of the trade is for parents to yell “Swing!” in unison to a player on the opposite team who is up to bat in an attempt to throw him off. Other times, they’ll all cheer together, “Two down and one to go. Let’s go . . . let’s go . . . let’s go!” While this is officially a “cheer,” it’s really intended to unnerve the poor ten-year-old up to bat.
Deadspin notes that a Google search of “baseball Dads arrested” yields seven million results.
Actually, that sounds a little low to me. After spending time at these games, I’m really surprised it’s not much higher.
A couple of weeks ago, my eleven-year-old began baseball practice for the upcoming season.
I can’t wait.
Let the fighting . . . I mean . . . games begin!