Recently, a fight broke out on the floor of a varsity boys basketball game between Averill Park and Bethlehem Central high schools in the Capital District.
During a play under one of the team’s baskets, a player on one side apparently took issue with something an opponent had done and openly and obviously shoved that player, whereupon a teammate of the shoved player violently pushed the offender.
The offender, not taking to that tactic, threw a punch at his shover. After that, all players entered the fray. This entire debacle was recorded by somebody in the stands.
The two main offending players were thrown out of the game and suspended for the next game, as well.
Such physical confrontations are nothing new, of course. They’ve been occurring in contests at all levels, grade school through professional, for as long as the contests have been held.
Nevertheless, they are disturbing. Not only that, they are embarrassing for everyone connected with the encounters — or they should be.
Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Jody Monrole was quoted in the Times Union of Albany after the incident: “We are concerned and disappointed to see this kind of behavior unfold during a game. We hold all student-athletes to the highest standards of sportsmanship, good judgment and personal responsibility.”
In the North Country, it’s been some time since we had to endure this kind of behavior during an organized sports encounter.
But it has happened. Interestingly, we experience such irrational behavior by parents far more often than by the athletes themselves.
Anyone who has coached or refereed adolescent sporting events for a significant length of time can recall any number of times a parent has behaved badly in behalf of his or her offspring during a game.
Not long ago, the Press-Republican carried a Letter to the Editor from a parent complaining that a daughter or son hadn’t gotten enough playing time, even though, in the author’s opinion, that child clearly deserved it.
We heard a number of people react to that letter by saying a coach is a far more reliable source than a parent is for the decision of who deserves playing time.
The coach is with the team every day and knows exactly what needs to be extracted from each player to the end benefit of the entire team. A parent, on the other hand, has only one player’s good as a motivator.
But, while parents would be better off not exposing themselves and their children to potential ridicule for second-guessing the coach on the issue of playing time, at least it is understandable that they want to see their kids play more.
However, being hostile toward the coach or official is on the other end of the behavior spectrum: It is not at all excusable.
We urge parents to be grateful for whatever time their children get on the field, the floor or the ice and to swallow hard and accept when they truly believe it is not enough.
And also be grateful that your kids haven’t replicated what happened downstate. Sportsmanship is crucial for everyone.