Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's Been Awhile...

Yeah, I know I haven't posted in a bit. In my defense, though, I did write something intended for this space a couple of weeks ago; it just ended up in the newspaper instead.

Here's the deal: my sons, who are in third grade, are playing basketball this year. They've been playing in this league since they were in kindergarten, but this year things got much, much more competitive. There's shouting, name-calling, swearing, and even near-brawling.

And I don't mean the kids. I'm talking about the parents and coaches.

Over the course of this season, I've seen a coach throw down his clipboard after he didn't like a call; parents and coaches mercilessly riding referees (who, incidentally, are just teenagers); coaches blatantly playing favorites and doing anything to win.

And I've heard stories, as well. Stories about coaches actually scouting other teams. Stories about a coach calling another coach an "a-hole," right in earshot of the children. (I'm censoring here; he didn't.) Stories about a coach who got so angry about a call, he and the ref nearly came to blows.

Did I mention these kids were in THIRD GRADE?

So I decided to write a piece about all this for my blog, which I called "When Coaches Lose Perspective, Kids Lose More." But before I posted it, I showed it to my wife to get her thoughts. I don't always run my blog posts by anyone, but this was one was different, because I was being critical of some people in the community; we still have to live here, after all.

Not only did my wife like the piece, she suggested I send it in to the Hartford Courant. She has a good sense about these things, so I took a chance. I figured if they didn't like it, I could just publish it myself.

That was a Tuesday. On Friday, the editor called and said he was going to publish it. On Sunday, February 8, the piece appeared in the Opinions section of the Courant under the headline, "Only a Game-- Until the Adults Suck the Fun Out of It."

I had concerns that the subject matter wasn't particularly original, but the piece definitely generated some great conversation. Even people I hardly knew or didn't know at all sent me e-mails and messages to my Facebook account and even hand-written letters to my high school. A woman who works at my sons' school stopped my wife and asked if she was married to the guy who wrote that piece in the paper. And the feedback was all good (a welcome change from the feedback I got for my Kid Rock article from last July).

Everyone had a story to share, about an incident at a local game involving overzealous parents or an obsessive coach. Everyone agreed that things get too competitive too soon.

And I was even able to take my sons to basketball without getting beat up by the coaches-- which either means they didn't read it, or they read it, but didn't know I was the guy who wrote it, or they read it, knew I was the guy who wrote it, but didn't think I was referring to them.

Here's the great lesson I took out of this whole thing: people still read the newspaper. I've heard a lot over the past couple of years about how newspapers are becoming extinct because everyone gets their news online. That's hooey, I say. People are still reading; they're still sitting down with their coffee and Corn Flakes on Sunday morning and flipping through the paper. That's comforting to me. (So sayth the guy who's writing a blog.)

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