I’m compelled to dispel some misinformation this week, on several hot button topics at several schools and feedback from some upset parents.
The first topic that has several parents fuming involves the rescheduling of the rematch between the Lapeer East and Lapeer West hockey teams. After the on-ice fight and ugliness in the fan sections at the last game, both schools mutually agreed to move the hockey game from Saturday, Feb. 12 at 5:45 p.m. to Friday, Feb. 11 at 3 p.m. Several upset readers from both schools said this was a cop out by the athletic departments and penalizes the parents and fans. Perhaps.
However, I have to agree with the schools–to a point–on the reschedule. After witnessing the fight and the ugliness in the stands, anything that can be done to temper these rivalries that at some schools has quite frankly gotten out of hand, is a good thing. The time may not be to the liking of many, and perhaps a compromise time of 5 p.m. could have been reached. Nevertheless, in my seven years of covering the local high school sports scene, I had never seen anything that bad between two teams. It has no place in high school sports, as East coach Matt Dubee minced no words about, goes against the athletes code of conduct, and was just simply a display of poor sportsmanship and control from both sides.
Emotions always get amped up in any cross-town rival contest. That does not give the players–or their fans–a free pass to go after one another on the playing field, or in the stands. Over the years, I have seen kids in the stands cross the line with cursing at one another, inappropriate signage, laying hands on one another, and the one extreme case I still remember from several years back, grabbing an opposing player DURING the game. A West fan reached out and grabbed East’s Steve Wilmers when he fell into the student section going after a basketball and screamed into his face. Luckily, then-West Athletic Director Tim Zeeman appeared faster than I Dream of Jeannie and escorted the sheepish young man out of the gym. At another local game, fans from the rival side, and I don’t recall which at this point, talked over and mocked the young lady singing the national anthem. This kind of behavior is simply unacceptable.
Moving on, a high school girls’ basketball mom fumed in an e-mail over the weekend that we were purposely smearing her daughter’s team because we didn’t mention all the injured players and other issues hampering its ability to win, or the players’ stats. To be clear, we never maliciously “go after” any team.
In this instance, the game details were never reported to us from her daughter’s school. That happens more than parents realize. We can call, e-mail and fax until we are blue in the face, but at some point, we have to put the paper to bed. The coaches also are not required to report every inner working of their team. And, why in the world would they?
In this case, if the team has so many kids injured, why would a coach want to broadcast that to the opposition, especially in the midst of league play? That’s giving away your entire hand in a card game. You want that opposition coming in expecting all your players to be healthy and on the playing field. And, when they aren’t, that can serve as a weapon of its own to unseat a plan of attack.
We have other coaches every season who simply don’t like telling the whole world how well a team is doing, or if they are struggling and why. It’s their prerogative to hold those details from the opposing teams—and us.
The final item to clarify for the readers revolves around athletic directors. There is confusion from parents on exactly what their function is at these games, and it’s not to be in the stands. That duty falls to the deans of students and principals. The athletic directors have their own set of responsibilities to the officials, trainers, coaches and players, and the media. We’re in those restricted areas with them and see first hand what they are responsible for. Walk a mile in their shoes before you point fingers.