It's impossible to produce this show and not hear over and over again how parents are bringing terrible sideline behavior to games. While I can't deny that this terrible behavior exists, or that it has a negative effect on so much of what youth sports is supposed to do for us, I can offer a potential alternative explanation for why we're seeing so much of it. All the usual reasons: paying unreasonable amounts of money; chasing labels like "elite," "select," and "travel;" the professionalization of youth sports (treating kids like professional athletes), and living vicariously all still apply. But lately, I've been thinking that something even bigger is going on here. In fact, given context, this kind of behavior may actually be understandable. I won't say I think it's right, but it is perhaps more understandable when we consider what else is going on. Let's talk about it.
The Bad Behavior
It's always important to set the table before we dig in to a topic like this. If you're joining us for the first time, you might not be indoctrinated yet to the problems we're trying to solve or to the way we use words to describe them. One need only type "Bad Sideline Behavior" into a browser search tool and more than a million results will pop up. I wrote and recorded a lot more detail on this subject in episode #36 titled Bad Sideline Behavior (https://thesoccersidelines.com/36-bad-sideline-behavior/). I wrote and recorded that episode in early July 2018, so if you want to take a deeper dive into what I see with respect to bad sideline behavior, I'll simply link you to that episode and you can read or listen to my thoughts on the subject.
Preamble to Political Potpuri
What I'm about to say is going to make some people mad. Not because I'm promoting one thing or another, but because I'm walking up to a third rail issue. Actually, I'm walking up to and calling out a whole bunch of third rail issues, but understand... I'm doing this to point them out - not to convince you or anyone else of anything. I'm going to ask you to trust my motives for two reasons:
- I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, nor anything else, for that matter. I don't care what your (or anyone else's) politics are. I'm a registered independent - always have been and probably always will be. I value ideas from both sides of the isle and a few that come in trough the windows. I do vote, but I do so based on the issues that are important to me, the merit of the arguments posed from whatever candidates are on the ballot, and I feel no loyalty or aversion to any of the parties. I have friends in every political camp and I frankly don't care what anyone else thinks my opinion should be about most of the stuff that finds it's way into the public debate. I consider most of it none of my business. I welcome informed discussion, and reject all unsupported arguments that "should" on me - as in: I should think this way or I should vote that way. I understand that I am considered unusual by many & I don't care. People have made assumptions - usually incorrect - about my belief system for most of my life. It is simply a phenomenon I have no control over.
- My personality type has been established and confirmed often through testing over the years. I'm a confident, intuitive, thinking type who takes queues from an internal compass. All arguments and discussions are welcome, but they need to focus on the issues and away from personal attacks if they're going to be something I listen to.
To best understand how I'm wired as I have the discussion that follows, a few examples of people and characters who share my personality type might help:
- Fictional characters with my personality type are Bruce Wayne from Batman, Elrond the Elf King from Lord of the Rings, and Captain Picard from Star Trek.
- Scientists with my personality type are Stephen Hawking and Isaac Newton.
- Philosophers with my personality type are Frederich Nietzche, Karl Marx, and Heraclitus.
- Inventors with my personality type are Nikola Tesla, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk
- Politicians with my personality type are Augustus Caesar, Calvin Coolidge, Chester Arthur, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Thomas Jefferson, Ulysses Grant, Vladimir Putin, Jame Polk, and Woodrow Wilson.
- Musicians with my personality type include Ludwig van Beethoven, Jay-Z, and Glenn Gould
- Athletes with my personality type are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bobby Fischer, and Lance Armstrong
- Celebrities with my personality type are Chevy Chase, Colin Firth, and Russell Crowe
- Women with my personality type include Julia Styles, Jodie Foster, Angela Lansbury, Ann Coulter, Ayn Rand, Susan B Anthony, Martina Navratilova, and Michelle Obama.
I hope my point is made. All of the above characters "super power" is the fact that they easily recognize patterns, I don't give a hoot about the politics or left or right. It's the issues I'm focused on. I want us to see some important trends and connections.
The Madness of People
I'm not old enough to be a Baby Boomer, but the way I was raised, we were taught to have respect for our elders, respect for authority, respect the flag, to work hard, to volunteer and help out when we are part of a community, and to love mom and eat hot apple pie. Our history was clean and beautiful. We were proud of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln... We knew about Watergate and Vietnam, but lies told to us over the years were only starting to make their appearance. We held hope that those historical lies were anomalies. We wanted to continue to believe in our goodness, that despite our flaws, that we still held the moral high ground on the world stage.
Now fast forward with me and consider what the current generation of youth parents grew up in and is now having to deal with. I'll list out just a few things that we've had to content with in the last, say 30 years:
We've been lied to. Viewed through a contemporary lens, our country has a long history with racism. I mean we knew that there was slavery at some long ago time - way before any of us were born, but these last few years have raised a chorus of voices against historical symbols all across the county. Whereas many of us thought they were just important dead guys on dead horses, it turns out they may have been put up to frighten or intimidate fellow Americans. Disappointments all around.
We've been lied to and taken advantage of. Women we were raised to respect and love were abused in numbers far greater than anyone thought possible. One story after another of scandal made the news as victim after victim tugged at our heart strings, plunked our anger, and shattered our illusions of life in America.
The fact that #MeToo is even a thing is enough to make most people angry. When we find out that people close to us have direct experience with this, it ticks us off even more! What about all those complaints that fell on deaf ears? What about the complaints that were never heard because our system - those in positions of authority - didn't take this seriously?
It turns out we're pretty poor stewards of our environment. Regulations protecting our environment have been ignored, traded, or repealed entirely. Meanwhile, forests and hillsides burn, mudslides bury, water levels rise, ocean life strangles in our trash, and weather patterns around the world become erratic. Close to home, outdoor soccer fields take weeks to dry out or stay so dry, the grass turns to dirt.
Greta Thunberg, while serving as an inspiration for what one person can do to give voice to important problems, is also bringing shame and attention to leaders and the inattention we've paid to one important problem of climate control. She's a visible reminder of the fact that our poor decisions have impact on generations to come. Who can resist feeling inspired and outraged by her commentary to world leaders today?
Enron, AIG, Bailouts, the "Cliff," Worldcom, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, the LIBOR scandal, the Subprime mortgage crisis, Chain of Title scandal... the list goes on and on. Netflix is full of documentaries. Amazon is full of books. Recent bailouts, foreclosure crisis, and widely publicized fraud and greed are enough to sour anyone against the economic system. We've forgotten that the economic system was set up to facilitate business growth, create jobs, and empower people to deliver value into the world. It's not to make greedy people rich or keep poor people poor.
New Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, maps the formula used since the 1953 overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. The fact that our country has been overthrowing governments and interfering in foreign affairs - primarily for economic reasons, so big businesses can continue to grow and improve shareholder value is shocking to most Americans.
Podcasts like Congressional Dish, No Agenda, and The Intercept reach every mobile device in the world and lay bare the shenanigans of our politicians - from behind the scenes of the impeachment drama, to Brexit, to storing of nuclear waste, breaking up the department of the Interior, to the not-so-"Federal" reserve, to torture, and more.
Information, opinions (usually inflammatory), and factual truths have been coming out over and over again about how we've been behaving. What's more, the hard stuff is not coming out via mainstream media - only through indy outlets and smaller, specialized feeds. Meaning there is a lack of parity of knowledge across our population. Meaning everyone seems to "know" a different version of every story - even if the story itself is the same.
This stuff disappoints us, makes us angry with authority, and makes us mistrust in the goodness of our neighbors & those who are theoretically "looking out" for us. Police have been in the news over and over again - shown to be abusing their power, in some cases beating and/or killing citizens and neighbors, and looking like fools in front of every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wants to Youtube a cop into looking foolish. Yeah, we're angry. We want our innocence back. We want the moral high ground back. We don't want to feel embarrassed for our fellow countrymen's actions or like we're not trusted enough to be told the truth. People feel betrayed and unfairly treated.
Is it Any Wonder?
Is it any wonder that people are already mistrustful, angry, annoyed, and feeling bitter about authority? Given the few examples I've cited above, as well as the many I simply didn't make the time to write down for this show, is it any wonder people are yelling at referees and preferring to pay thousands of dollars rather than volunteer with a local Club? Warning: paying thousands of dollars used to be essentially a contract when I was growing up. Today, it seems more like abuse than a two-way commitment.
You might say "They're just referees. They'e officiating youth sports games. How are they responsible for all the other nonsense that people in the world are being exposed to?" If you thought that, I'd agree with you! Referees are not responsible for the nonsense above. But be real... we're being steeped in fake news and fraud nonsense all day these days. We're being told by our politicians to not trust our neighbors. We're being told to look the other way and not engage - elections are rigged anyway. We're being told that we are powerless, uninformed, ignorant, gullible, stupid, and now even poor examples of human beings for our kids to emulate. I want to yell out-loud just writing this paragraph!
With that as a backdrop, enter the referee. A symbol of authority from our kid's world. They make calls on our behalf without any input. Their decisions affect our kid's - our most precious of beings - lives. We may not understand exactly what they've said or why they've said it, but they just called my kid "foul." How dare anyone do to my kids what the world has been doing to me? Who knows if they're lying or if they truly have our best interest at heart? Who knows if they're on the payroll of some other entity, like our medical system and politicians are? Who knows if they stand for me out there? Who stands for me these days if I don't stand for me?
We may not be able to yell at our politicians (except through the TV), or at our neighbors when they cut us off in traffic. We may not be able to do anything when we're hit by a bill for tens of thousands of dollars for a simple medical procedure we didn't know we would be paying for. We may not be able to do anything about the fact that our elected representatives come from only two parties, some pedigree that doesn't represent me, and make decisions for us that literally get our kids killed. But by God, we can affect that guy in the middle of the field! We have power of voice here. Intimidation is on our side on the soccer pitch! We can see what's going on with our own two eyes, and we don't agree with this or that call. I'll be buggered if we can't say something here in our own back yard!
It would be downright irresponsible to get you fired up with all this negative stuff and leave you with nowhere to go. If you dig into the resources I left in the show notes for this episode, you're going to need a happy place. You're going to want to feel empowered to make a difference. Fortunately, this is not a bridge too far for us. You and I are already in a place where we can make a difference.
If you were to turn off the TV right now and leave it off. If you could resist the siren song of your phone long enough, you would find your family nearby. All around you, you'd find your neighbors. Those neighbors and your family are directly in your sphere of influence. No matter what's going on in the news, you can do something today to help them. You can get outside and run around, kick a ball, and encourage them. You can join with a group of your neighbors and form teams. You can join with other teams to kick a ball, make mistakes, fall down, laugh about it, and get back up. You can help someone else when they need encouragement. You can volunteer some of your TV time to bring value to the kids and families who live nearby.
One of your neighbors might be a referee. Look for someone brave enough to put on a bright yellow shirt and step out into the public eye. Someone who cares enough to learn and practice the craft of calling fair games for kids. Someone willing to make mistakes themselves, review their own performance regularly, be humble and open to constructive criticism, and willing to keep trying. Thank them for making games possible and ask them to come back next week so your kids can play again.
Clean up any leftover plastic bottles after the game and recycle them so our kids know by your example that the environment is important to take care of. Show respect for the fields we play on, the people who help make games possible, and the players and parents from the other teams who turned out and gave everything they had so we could enjoy a real challenge and leave the field stronger.
By all means, stay educated about the terrible stuff going on, but protect your home and treat your community as sanctuaries from the nonsense. Plant a garden, eat healthy, and get out and hike with your kids in 2020 so they know that caring for our bodies is important in life too.
Raising kids in the world as it is today has its challenges. How will you rise to that challenge in the New Year?
- Jaceris, Mindaugas. “The Ultimate List Of Famous INTJ People (Updated).” INTJ Vision, INTJ Vision, 29 July 2019, http://www.intjvision.com/intj-famous-people/.
- Theintercept. “The Intercept.” The Intercept, https://theintercept.com/.
- “No Agenda on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/no-agenda/id269169796.
- Briney, Jen. “Congressional Dish.” Congressional Dish, https://congressionaldish.com/.