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An ugly scene: Adults scream for players to hurt a youth football foe

Well, it was quite an opening weekend to football season – it started with ignorance and ended with raw ugliness.

 First, the ignorance: Thursday nights are typically freshman football nights and that is the training ground for officials. Normally, rookie striped shirts are lacking proper mechanics and Thursdays is where they are learned.

 Everyone has to learn – that is just how things work. But just like tying your shoes and zipping your zipper, before an official takes the field one thing that should be learned are basic rules. Yeah, there are some quirks that require some noodling to get through, but basic rules should be a given.  

 Due to a scheduling quirk, the Manteca junior varsity played on Thursday last week. On their opponent’s first offensive play, No. 55 lined up in the backfield. By rule, No.’s 55-79 cannot catch a forward pass. The Buffaloes coach let his team know to ignore No. 55 if he went out for a pass.

 What happened? No. 55 caught a pass three plays later. The Manteca coach went livid – understandably so. While pleading with the referee, the coach got louder and louder. The referee ignored him. Finally, the coach called time out and the referee acted as if he had no idea what the coach was talking about. It was ludicrous. The referee checked with the umpire and both said the play was legal. Fortunately, it had no bearing on the outcome of the game.

 I am not saying I haven’t made any mistakes as a writer – I have made some doozies. But when confronted on them, I correct them – I do not double down. And I know officials have a horrible, thankless job, but I am not talking about a questionable judgement call here – this was Rulebook 101. 

 A few years back there was a series called “Friday Night Tykes” about youth football in different parts of the country. I enjoyed the portion filmed in Western, Pennsylvania, because it reminded me of when I coached in Manteca back in the last century.

 Throughout the series there was conduct by adults that was disgusting. That was the selling point of the show, and I lapped it up like a baby with his soft, bland cereal. But the last show I saw took disgusting to new depths. A female coach offered a bounty to any of her players who took the star opponent out of the game by hurting him.

 As some of you may know, I take pictures of youth sports for the Bulletin as I did on Saturday. And there I was, smack dab in the middle of a “Friday Night Tykes” episode. I got to the game after halftime, and the home team was getting beat pretty soundly. I had time to get my pics and get to my next assignment, so I thought all was well. It definitely was not.  

 I heard many rumblings from the home stands as well as a couple of women on the sideline whom I assume were moms in some administrative capacity about illegal helmet-to-helmet hits. Now I have no idea what happened before I got there, but the plays that I saw which led to the barking were all legal plays – even the one when a helmet came off.

But that sort of ignorant barking tends to escalate things, and escalate it did. Somebody from the home team had to be helped off of the field, and one of these two moms hollered, “Who did this – who hit you?” 

 The next thing I know these two moms are moving up and down the sidelines hollering at their team to take a certain player on the other team out. They are referring to him by number and they did so repeatedly and with venom in their voice, working the crowd into an ugly lather. 

 I do not know which was worse – the women spewing what they were spewing or the coaches who made no effort to stop them. If I was in charge those women would be banned for life and the coaches suspended for a game. There is no place in sports at any level – especially youth – for that type of conduct or the tolerance of that type of conduct – period.

 And wouldn’t you know it? The game ended 7 minutes early because of a fight on the field.

 As I said at the start of this – raw ugliness. Adults are supposed to know better.