Watch what you say

Multiple stories were related from fans, officials, parents, youth, and middle and high school coaches with regards to the April 11 article “The Changing Sport Landscape and the Ray of Hope: YOU.”

An idea was formed. Similar to Don Dubuc’s Saturday morning fishing report where the “bad boys” are identified for things such as shooting endangered species and killing three times the limit of ducks, on occasion it might be valuable to identify bad acts related by “anonymous sources” to bring a wider awareness to the problem(s) of youth sports and mixed messages.

The thought was to maybe serve as a deterrent to future bad behavior. The original plan was to closely guard both sources (the storyteller) and the culprit (i.e. the poor sport) but tell the stories because they are quite humorous.

Leave it to Rep. Cameron Henry, of Metairie, for introducing House Bill 184 that would make the harassment of a school or recreation athletic official by parents or fans a crime. Official harassment is no laughing matter. The new law will, in essence, lead to the “naming of names” as the arrests would be public information. At the time of this writing, only the governor’s signature was required for the bill to become law.

Harassment is defined as “verbal or non-verbal behavior by the offender that would cause a reasonable person to be placed in fear of receiving bodily harm.” Penalties? How about $500 in fines and 90 days of prison followed by 40 hours of court-approved community service work and counseling.

That official abuse has risen to the Legislature is symptomatic of a growing problem. On June 3, it passed with Senate amendments by a whopping 102-1. Every year, we hear the call for volunteers to undergo officials training due to the low retention rate, which may be partly due to the abuse they incur. Maybe this bill will have a positive effect.

If you are at a baseball or basketball game and Zachary Community School System Administrator Joe LeBlanc is behind the plate or running down the court calling fouls or traveling violations, I strongly recommend you avoid saying things he might find offensive. LeBlanc needs no law to stop fan abuse or be abusive right back to a fan.

Keeping with a more jovial flavor, some of the more lighthearted stories that were relayed to me related to baseball with the names removed to protect the innocent and guilty follow.

One father indicated that his wife kept the box score for his son’s 11-year old travel baseball team on GameChanger. Parents began complaining (during games) about how she scored hits versus errors and adversely affected the child’s batting average as the parents tracked the game in real time on their phones. Do the New York Yankees care about an 11-year old’s batting average? Parental harassment of other parents is real, though not covered by House Bill 184.

A school coach commented that he once had a mother let him know that her son could only throw 40 pitches during a school-sanctioned baseball game because they had a travel ball tournament that weekend and he needed to pitch. Never fear. Little Timmy (no that’s not his real name) was doing well and at 36 pitches the mother came to the dugout and yelled to the coach, “He can keep pitching. He is in a groove.”

Another parent remarked to a coach, “Don’t you wish my son could pitch and catch at the same time? We would win every game.” Ridiculous comments are not covered under HB 184 but should there not be some kind of punishment?

A 10-and-under youth league coach elaborated about a close play at first base where his player was called out, mumbled something inappropriate under his breath, and was tossed from the game by the umpire. The parent’s response was to complain vehemently and belittle the coach for not getting in the umpire’s face (not protected under HB 184). After berating the coach for lack of support, the parent took it to the umpire (HB 184 would address this). The parent said nothing to his son.

Keep 'em coming folks. Tell me a story at the ballpark/stadium or shoot an email to zachary@theadvocate.com. More importantly, if you are in the stands and have an inkling to misbehave, remember eyes are on you. Further, if you are harassing the referee or umpire you may find yourself opening your wallet, spending some time in the pokey, picking up trash on the side of the road, or some combination of those options.


Warren Brady covers sports for The Plainsman. He can be contacted at zachary@theadvocate.com.