By Request, A Column On Jv's But Don't Shake On It

SIDELINES

Postgame 'Sportsmanship' Ritual Can Turn Sour

November 10, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

I've been getting a lot of phone calls on the 24-Hour Sportsline (647-2499) from parents with kids who play junior varsity football. The fact that the media doesn't cover JV sports bothers them and they can't understand that JV teams exist to produce varsity players, and thevarsity has to take precedence.

Wednesday, in a "Q's without A's"column, I mentioned the St. Mary's JV football team winning the Maryland Scholastic Association C Conference championship, which prompteda call from A. L. Johnson of Annapolis.

"I'm glad to see you did something on JV football in your column.It's about time," he said.

Those of us in this business simply don't have enough space to do the varsities justice, and we often wish we could do more, but Mr. Johnson and others will love this column. It's an "All-JV Football" Sidelines.

Today, this space is devoted to JV football, but I must tell you that it starts on a sour note. Yousee, JV sports has the same problems as varsity sports, and if we are to engage in equal time, the JV guys can't escape the negative, either.

Can we shake on that? No, and let me tell you why.

You've read it here before, and I witnessed it first-hand Thursday afternoonat Severna Park High School. I'm talking about this hypocritical shaking-hands business after a game that can lead to a fight. Don't you know it led to a brawl?

The Falcons and their archrival, the Annapolis Panthers, played their final JV football game of the season, with Annapolis prevailing, 7-6, in a hard-fought game. Near the end of the game, there was a lot of the usual extracurricular rough stuff andlate hits, as the zebras separated a few guys.

It was obvious that the two teams didn't care for each other, and the fact that there were a couple scuffles as the clock was winding down should have indicated to the coaches on both sides not to take part in the hypocritical, ceremonial handshake.

Instead, Annapolis coaches Bob Bohanan and Dennie DeWitt, along with Severna Park coaches Bob Ferguson and Dick Keck, lined up their respective teams at midfield to shake hands. About halfway through the line, all hell broke loose, with punches being thrown and guys flailing away on the ground.

Bohanan got clocked and thought that he had broken his nose. Fortunately, he did not. The four coaches did their best to restore order, along with several parents, and varsity coach Andy Borland was summoned from a nearby practice field to help.

Borland took charge and wisely cleared the field and sidelines of all parents and students. No one argued with thebig guy. No one is that stupid.

After order was restored, the coaches lectured their teams and Borland was heard shouting at his JV. All the coaches handled it well in letting the kids know that such incidents cannot, and will not, be tolerated.

The Annapolis JV team met with principal Laura Webb after school Friday. Webb wanted to makesure the kids understood the seriousness of the brawl and how it must not happen again.

Both sides will tell you that it was the otherteam's fault, and it would be unfair for me to render an opinion, since my son, Sean, plays for Severna Park and I've known Bohanan and DeWitt for a long time and consider them friends.

I think it's safeto say that both teams were at fault, but more importantly, that thehand-shaking nonsense was the real culprit.

It's supposed to symbolize sportsmanship, but more athletic fights start because of the ceremony than anything else that happens at a game.

Unfortunately, alot of parents are used to seeing little Johnny shake hands in youthand recreation sports and consider it true sportsmanship. So, when Johnny gets to high school and the higher levels of youth sports, theyare appalled when someone doesn't want to shake hands.

"They're bad sports, because they didn't shake hands" is what you often hear when someone refuses to shake after a game, but they don't take into consideration all the anger and frustration that could be built up inside players during a hard-fought game.

I think it's very wise for that player not to shake hands and possibly explode when someone passing through the line smirks or laughs at him.

When an athlete playshard and exhausts all his physical and inner strength to win a game,it's understandable -- and I think commendable -- that he is upset if he loses. Winners don't accept losing. They can learn from it, but they never accept it. That's why they are winners most of the time.

In order to keep that type of athlete from venting his anger after a game, it's better that he not pass through a line of opposing players.

Sure, there are some kids who win and who will shake hands with class, and maybe even console the other guy, but every team has at least one wise guy who likes to agitate and stir things up. That's all it takes.

It's better not to risk an ugly incident like the one at Severna Park Thursday, with coaches rolling around on the ground and getting popped by students.

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