New Facebook page raises awareness of parents who act like fools at youth sporting events, and deservedly so
When I was a teenager, I experienced a rather embarrassing moment at a University of Nevada baseball game.
The umpire made a call that everyone in the seats behind home plate disagreed with, including me.
“YOU GOTTA BE F****** KIDDING ME?!?!” I screamed out of nowhere, my pubescent voice cracking mid-phrase.
I instantly regretted the decision. I was embarrassed and felt like a hypocrite because I was always annoyed with parents who went berserk on referees, especially at youth sporting events.
Nowadays, getting “caught in the moment” like that can get you internet famous, and deservedly so.
A recent New York Times article profiled Brian Barlow, a youth sports referee in Oklahoma who created a Facebook page that shows footage of parents making asses of themselves at kids games. By design, it holds parents accountable for their actions and dissuades them from verbally- or physically-abusing referees or parents.
It’s a brilliant strategy.
Barlow will pay you $100 if you submit a video of a parent fighting or misbehaving at a sporting event. Nearly 20,000 people subscribe to the page, called Offside. In return, he hopes that people will cut the referees some slack and be a better example for their kid(s).
Unfortunately, it’s come to a point where parents need to see and understand the repercussions of acting inappropriately at games – especially when some children are more interested in the post-game treats than the actual game.
Changing My Technique
The strategy worked on me. My daughter and wife will likely appreciate it.
I read the story and watched the videos. It made me recount times when I shouted at an umpire at my brother’s Babe Ruth game or the referee at my nephew’s soccer game.
I’m a sports fan, through and through (I’ve even watched Spikeball and Cornhole on ESPN). I’m a rules expert for many sports, too. I know when a referee makes a mistake and, further, I know when that mistake can severely affect the outcome of a game. I understand the urge to stick up for your child if he/she was wronged.
As I get older, however, I also understand that it is not worth calling out some volunteer referee (many of whom are just a few years older than the players).
What does it accomplish? They’re not going to change the call. All you’re doing is making yourself look like an idiot by taking a youth game too seriously.
Now that everyone has a cell phone, your behavior can instantly be shared on the internet.
Think about it: Imagine being a parent who brawled in this video.
How fun it would be to watch the “views” number climb higher and higher on YouTube, especially if you’re the guy in the red shirt who kicked the guy in the ribs? What once was a small-town story of intolerance is now a national mockery, from the New York Times to now Reno Dads.
That’s not how I want to be remembered.
I am the newest fan of the Offside Facebook page. I plan to share its controversial content and use it as a personal reminder for my daughter’s future games:
Keep your cool, or else you’ll live in internet infamy.