Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Glory Days

I remember high school in the eighties. Friday nights were all about finding the 18 year-old in Wisconsin who could still legally drink and was willing to buy us minors the booze we craved. Sometimes it involved going to one of the two high school sock hops that were held after the varsity basketball game. On occasion, we would use our activity pass to be one of the 45 people attending the game. The stands were empty, except for the 40 parents of the basketball players and cheerleaders, and the 5 die-hard basketball fans who actually understood what “zone defense” meant. My friends and I were the girls who popped in for the final 2 minutes of the game and cheered at all the wrong times. We didn’t care. We were cheering for the game to be over so that the dance could start.

As an adult, I have even less interest in high school sports. My children are years away from high school. I have no business there. Or do I? Welcome to my village of 1,000, located in? The Twilight Zone.

My task for you is to read this description, and tell me, honestly, if I live in the Twilight Zone or if I am a complete moron and this type of behavior is normal. Remember. I’m talking HIGH SCHOOL and MIDDLE SCHOOL.

Maybe all villages of 1,000 people are like this. I know that we were initially mesmerized by how this community rallied around the school and its children. Each Thursday our weekly newspaper has been filled with photographs of children with captions like, “The second grade students hone their square dancing skills,” or, “Girls battle against each other in the high school Powder Puff football game”. We bought it all. This, we knew, would be a great place to raise our children.

At first we were optimistic. Sure our neighbor’s first questions of if we had attended the local high school seemed odd, but surely they would warm up to us after we had spent some time chatting. Nine years later, few of them talk to us. You see we are transplants. We didn’t attend the local high school, we didn’t marry someone who attended the local high school, and we didn’t marry a relative of someone who attended the local high school. They were left with nothing to talk to us about and we have spent nine years in deafening silence.

When our oldest daughter started playing soccer, we were thrilled. Thrilled to cheer on every player. Thrilled to share adult laughter at the cute things our children did both on the field and off. When our daughter was asked to play on a 3 on 3 basketball team we were… well… surprised. She had never really played basketball before, but the fourth grade girl who wanted to put a team together was her close friend, and as my daughter practiced, I watched to learn more about the game. I thought it would be like the soccer games. “Go Team!” “Yeah!” and knowing glances with other parents about the cuteness of children as they learned new skills, but oh, was I wrong. Who invited these parents that started screaming, “SHOOT!” “USE YOUR BUTT!” and “HELP! HELP!”. Oh. God. They were the parents of a girl on my daughter’s team. That was two years ago. Since then, we have added countless other parents who scream directions from the bleachers (I call them bleacher coaches) and criticize the split second decision of 12 year old players who are lucky if they have 50 games of experience under their belts. I was even more surprised to learn that most of the parents screaming had never played the game themselves! Maybe this behavior was something particular to the parents of this team. I had caught the parents of other teams smiling at one another. Sometimes.

Last Friday we attended the boy’s varsity basketball game because our youngest daughter had participated in a pom pon clinic and performed at half time. I was shocked by what I saw. Several parents of children the same age as my children filled the stands. They had no one on the team. Parents who have groomed their own sons to be future local stars (they built a cement half court in their backyard complete with nighttime lights) smoozed with the varsity coaches, trying to create a space for their sons on the team four years from now. Parents of girls on my daughter’s team were there, also having obviously bought into the policitalness of high school sports. Maybe we should attend games on a regular basis. Everyone else seemed to. Is this the only way you get your child on a high school team? True, most of these people were born here, grew up here, and stayed to raise their children here. They still come to “the game”. Their children, no doubt, will repeat the process. Life here revolves on what you did in high school.

Tonight we went to the girl’s varsity basketball game for two reasons. First, my daughter and my husband wanted to see a game, and second, my daughter’s good friend has been a manager of the team for at least three years (when she was a third grader). Again, parents of toddlers were there with parents of elementary school students, and parents of high school students. The stands were packed. In a community of 1,000, more than a third of them were at the game. Toddlers were passed from parents to grandparents as they all stood to sing the school song. I didn’t even know my school had a “school song” until graduation day when I asked someone next to me, “What is the band playing?” We both found out only after digging through the program. At the game, the woman sitting next to me (a local) jabbed me in the ribs and told me to stand up for “the cheer” and “the song”. Everyone joined in. It was like high school all over again, especially because I am still the only one cheering at the wrong time. Now, though, I have 300 people glaring at me when I accidentally cheer for the wrong team. They don’t like it much.

They take their high school sports seriously. The grandmother in front of me had no relative on the team, but screamed out to one of the players anyway, telling her that she needed to, “Pass the ball for Christ sake,” and, “Pass it to Abby!” Adults all around us screamed profanities at the refs at almost every call. Adults on the opposing side did cat calls before our players shot free throws, trying to break their concentration. Who the hell are the kids? Do they never grow up in this village? If this story sounds familiar and you live in my neighborhood… YES. I AM TALKING ABOUT YOU!

You. The person who kept screaming, “Swing it” when our team was on offense. You. The person who called all of the players by their first name even though your own children graduated 10 years ago and you don’t know these kids. You. Who came to the game because your daughter’s boyfriend played in the band before the game and you need to make an “appearance”. You. My neighbor, who caught my eye, AGAIN, and couldn’t be polite enough to even say, “Hello”. You. Who came to the game thinking that it would improve your chance to be the coach when your kid is on the team that will no doubt win the state champion bringing glory and honor to your name and this community. You people are the reason I want to move. Fast.

I feel so sorry for those kids playing. I can’t even imagine the pressure they must feel.

I just want to tell all of you that after you graduate from high school, you really aren’t supposed to relive it every Friday night until your ashes are spread over the outdoor football field. Get over it. You graduated, and now it is someone else’s turn to be a kid, not yours. You don’t need to do “the cheer” or call out kid’s first names as if you just had them in your study hall. Those days are OVER for you.

This cute, quaint village with the smiling faces peering out from each week’s newspaper has shown its true face. It is a bad episode of the Twilight Zone or Pleasantville, minus the pleasant. Are all small villages like this? Please tell me!

Lucky me, I get to spend the next two days surrounded by these morons who don’t seem to understand the rules that are read out prior to each game about sportsmanlike conduct of players and fans. Just because you pay a fee to watch a game doesn’t give you the right to taunt the players and the refs as though it were a professional game.

Saturday and Sunday are all-day 5th and 6th grade basketball tournaments on our high school court. Yippee. “USE YOUR BUTT” and all of the other adults who act like spoiled children will be there. Smoozing. The same community members who were at the games tonight will no doubt show up and scream at these little 11 and 12 year old as though they don’t know how to play correctly. Well, they don’t. That’s the point!

I can hardly wait.


  • At 9:30 AM , Blogger Vicki Knitorious said...

    Your title says it all... The whole realm of sports politics is another reason I thank my lucky stars that my girls were not interested in athletics at school. I think that what you describe is universal, but more apparent in a place with a small population that doesn't change much.

  • At 4:31 PM , Blogger Elaine said...

    It sounds like the Twilight Zone or a small town in Oklahoma (that entire state took their kids sports activities wayyyy too seriously!)

  • At 1:12 PM , Blogger fillyjonk said...

    Yes, alas, that's typical of small (and some not-so-small) towns: the sports mania, the horrible stage-parent syndrome, the shunning of anyone not born and bred there.

    Of course, there are also (if you're lucky) some wonderful people in the town who don't give two hoots about that kind of behavior and will gladly sit and roll their eyes along with you when someone leaps up in the stands and yells "Use your butt!"

    I don't have kids, but I work with kids, and I do see some of the negative consequences of parents pushing their kids way too hard.

    all I can say is: be nice to your kids, they'll choose the "home" you're in someday. They'll remember if you let them have fun or pushed them to be stars.


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