Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tourney Time: The Bad & The Ugly

Well it's too bad that even a tournament for 8 year-olds has to have ugly moments. It's sad when the kids are more mature than the adults, and this weekend reminded me once again of how easily children's sporting events can turn to fisticuffs amongst the parents. On to the review of the Bad and the Ugly of All-Star Tournament weekend.

The Bad

I've alluded to it in previous posts, but the weather sucked. It was too freakin' hot, and I'm amazed that none of the players succumbed to heat exhaustion. Kudos to the coaches who kept the girls hydrated and sprayed down. Temperatures averaged around 105 and topped out at 108.

And it was ridiculous what the parents had to drag around to keep from dying. You couldn't sit on the metal bleachers unless you wanted your ass served sunny-side up. So the area surrounding the ball fields turned into tent city with families hauling and erecting 10' and 12' portable canopies to provide shelter from the sun. In between games there was a steady flow of tournament refugees toting canopies, chairs, and coolers between the fields and the parking lot. It was quite the sight to see. By the time we actually got our canopy and chairs set up, we were drenched with sweat and spent the rest of the game sucking down as much water as possible to replace the liquid draining from our sweat glands.

So I'm thinking that next year All-Star weekend should take place around April.

The Ugly

I think if there's anything worse than a sore loser, it's a sore winner. I mean, seriously, you're winning. What in the world do you have to complain about? We played the tournament #1 seed twice and got stomped 9-0 and 6-0, even though we gave them a tough fight through half of the second game. In both of those games, their coaches and/or parents complained about some activity surrounding our team. In the first game, the teenage brother of one of the girls on Kailey's team brought a small cow bell. He attached it to his chair and rang it when one of our girls got a hit or made a good play. He wasn't being overly raucous or obnoxious with it, but at the end of the second inning, when we were losing 6-0, the umpire came up to the backstop and said, "Ummm, I'm sorry, didn't realize this but cow bells aren't allowed." They were routing us and complaining about a cow bell. Pretty pathetic.

It gets worse. We were playing for our tournament lives in our Sunday afternoon rematch, and our girls were stoked. We held the #1 seed scoreless for the first two innings and the heat was on. Our girls came up to bat in the top of the third inning and everyone in the dugout was doing cheers and getting into the game. We had them up against the ropes and we knew it.

At some point in the inning one of the opposing team's coaches called time and came out to speak with the ump (the same ump who banned our cow bell). They spoke in hushed tones for a minute, then the ump walked over to our coach at third base and spoke to him for a minute. A smirk crept across our coach's face as he and the ump walked across the field to our dugout on the first base side. There they addressed our team for a few moments before the ump took his position behind the plate and our coach returned to third base. The whole time the crowd buzzed wondering what the hell was going on.

Our questions were answered moments later. And it didn't help the situation that most of the parents from both teams were lumped together behind home plate under the canopies of the tent city erected there. One of the moms from the other team delivered the news to everyone within earshot in a manner reminiscent of a prissy schoolgirl ratting out a spitball-wielding classmate. "It's in the RULES. They are not supposed to cheer while the pitcher is in the act of pitching. It's in the RULES."

A collective groan arose from the cluster of Southeast parents. Are you even f-ing kidding me? Here we are, the first team in the tournament to give them a real game, and they're nitpicking on when and how the girls can cheer? If our girls were screaming at the point of the pitcher's release and trying to razz her, then I think their complaint would be legitimate. But they weren't. They were getting into the spirit of the game, and to us, the complaint was totally petty.

The atmosphere behind home plate was tense after that, to say the least, and a few words were exchanged between parents. Fortunately, after a brief period of grumbling, everyone exercised restraint and tried their best to enjoy the game. Their girls scored three runs in the bottom of the third, effectively ending the game. We came so close to rubbing it in their fat that bad?

In a way, yes, it is. These are 8 year-old girls we're talking about here (although they had twelve of the biggest 8 year-olds I'VE ever seen). They probably still play Barbie's, and dress up, and do all the things that 8 year-old girls do. It's what the adults do that taint the kids and teach them that it's OK to do whatever it takes to win or that winning is the only thing. So, in essence, I guess I really wanted to rub it in the coaches' "fat faces".

Oh, I forgot another vital piece of information concerning those coaches. Diane and her mom were sitting by the opposing team's bench during their first drubbing when they overheard their head coach talking about our team. "This is what we used to look like before I took over this program," he bragged. What an ass. Sure, he's built a winning program, but at what cost? A program that produces a bunch of cry babies when they're winning? I'd hate to see how ugly it gets when they lose. And what does it teach these little girls?

OK, at this point I realize that I'm probably the one who sounds like a sore loser. It's not that at all. It didn't bother me in the least that we lost to the #2 seed on Saturday night. It was a close game, and, more importantly, their team was good and they handled themselves with class. They didn't bitch and moan that girls were being girls. Their coaches weren't these raging type-A personalities with testosterone gushing out of every pore of their bodies. They were competitive and they played hard, but they kept it all in perspective.

So while it was disappointing as the underdog to come up short against the #1 seed, I was still proud of our girls. They worked hard after losing a couple of games when they could have just given up. Now Kailey's coaches are talking about starting a Fall Ball team, so we'll see what Kailey wants to do. She's definitely a talented softball player and we want to encourage her and support her in any REASONABLE way we can. If she wants to play, we'll sign her up. I just want to make sure that I don't become one of those ultra-competitive softball fanatics, which I could probably slip into rather easily.

But for now, we'll just take a little breather from softball, until next week that is. Monday morning at 6:00 am, Kailey AND Kyra will be joining me in the backyard for drills and BP, 'cause next year we're gonna win it all!

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