Parents Take Column A Little Too Seriously


September 25, 1991|By PAT O'MALLEY

Disregarding the one irate Chesapeake parent who called my 24-hour Sportsline last week and told me she was going to personally take my poison pen and stick it up my nose, I have to admit taking to heart two other phone calls Friday night from another very nice Chesapeake lady.

The episode got me thinking that, just maybe, some parents take this high school sports scene a little too seriously, especially what we in the media write.

It's never ceased to amaze me over the years how readers misconstrue the things we write, missing the lighter side of things and getting upset over certain descriptive words.

A team can win, 35-0, andwe write that the team "routed" the other, and people get offended, saying that it wasn't a "rout" because their kids played hard, or were in the game until the second half.

Unfortunately, the entire game counts and the bottom line is the final score.

No matter how or when it happened, what else can a 35-zip score be but a rout or romp?

Last Friday night, Donna Wilde, whose son, Tim, is a pretty good senior two-way tackle at Chesapeake, called after the Cougars (1-2) had dropped a 21-14 double-overtime heart-breaker to unbeaten Glen Burnie (3-0).

"It's unfortunate, but I guess all they will see for their hard work is a few snide remarks from an old guy who has a newspaper column and forgets what it is like to be 17, play hard and still lose," she said.

"It's unfortunate that nobody gave them credit last week for playing 28 minutes against Old Mill and keeping them scoreless (in the other 20 minutes, Old Mill scored 28 points). It's not nice to always read how lousy they are. Maybe you should think about how they feel when they read about this kind of stuff in the newspaper."

Believe me, we don't try to hurt the feelings of any kid, and if feeling bad about something written is the worst thing that ever happens to them, thank goodness.

When you are down, as some teams are, get motivated to get back up. And if you can't, but can say that you gave it your best shot, then you are ahead in the game of life, which is more important than any football game.

What Wilde was referring to was last week's Prophet Pat column that picked Glen Burnie to win, 24-7, which, considering that the Gophers were undefeated and Chesapeake had just been routed, 28-0, was not too rough of a pick.

About a half hour later, at 11:25 p.m., Wilde called back to say, "I'm sorry if I wasn't nice in the first phone call, but I wanted to make one other point. I don't care whether or not you pick Chesapeake to lose, and I don't care if you don't say anything wonderfulabout them. However, what really bothers me is the low blow when you were talking about Broadneck and Arundel, and you have to say they're going to be the eventual bottom.

"I don't think that is right. Talk aboutBroadneck and Arundel, but don't drag down Chesapeake again."

Here's what was written in the Broadneck (1-2) at Arundel (0-3) pick: "These two teams are even in what is the battle for the eventual spot above Chesapeake in the final standings in the county 4A."

That wasnot meant to belittle the kids on the team, but merely a fact that after the first couple games, it sure looks like Chesapeake, 1-9 in each of the past two seasons, is not going to escape the cellar in whatis a very competitive league.

Monday I wrote how close the bottomlevel had gotten to the upper echelon of the Class 4A League. But teams like Chesapeake, Arundel and Broadneck still are not there, whileMeade, 1-9 a year ago, is off to a 2-1 start and is back.

In the over 20 years I've been in this business, I've never made it a practice to attack a kid. Coaches and officials get paid, so I consider them fair game, but not kids. Never.

I've even gone so far as to avoid mentioning a high school player's name when his mistake cost his team a game. He or she feels bad enough and doesn't need any more attention.

But citing a team's standing in a league is more a reflection on the coach, and there is no avoiding that a certain squad is first, and a particular squad is last. We have polls that rank teams, andwe publish standings of individual leagues. We can't just print the best teams and leave out the rest.

Just last year, in an attempt at the lighter side of sports, a colleague of mine ran a David Letterman-style "Top 10" list on Archbishop Spalding's winless football team. A few people at the school got upset about it instead of urging thekids to prove the writer wrong and reminding the kids that you can sometimes laugh at life's tribulations.

Prophet Pat has been a fun,tongue-in-cheek kind of column that has been around since the 1970s,when I was with the now-defunct News American, and I constantly run into former high school players who get on me about a pick I made 10 or 15 years ago.

Just last week, I ran into Tommy Thomas, a formerGlen Burnie linebacker, now a sales rep, and he started giving me the "Prophet" business and reminded me of a pick I made in 1981.

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