By Beacon Staff

There’s much attention and little sympathy given to the whining of professional athletes as they barter to increase multi-million dollar contracts or blame refs, teammates, fans, coaches – anyone but themselves – for poor performances.

Sometimes I wish we applied more of that “Get-over-it-crybaby” attitude to ourselves and other nonprofessional teams.

At the divisional tournament held at Glacier High School this past weekend, there were plenty of good games and loads of talented athletes that made for an exciting and competitive tournament. Unfortunately, there was also a fair amount of whining. Dads from opposing teams caught up in a screaming match. A player slapping away a hand-up from an opposing team’s player. A school’s pep band teacher screaming a profanity after a referee’s call.

I realize this is nothing new. These things were typical when I was a high school athlete, and I’m sure commonplace long before that. I guess I’m just disappointed that, if changing at all, I feel we’re moving in the wrong direction, making more and more excuses for this type of behavior. And, yes, at this level I think it’s the responsibility of coaches and parents to lead the way.

But, judging from recreation league games there’s plenty of adults who don’t grasp the concept themselves. Dan Testa’s already filled you in on the hilarity that is Beacon dodgeball, but while I’ve really enjoyed the league it’s not immune from a trend I’ve seen in other recreation sports. It’s almost laughable when grown adults stay in the game despite being obviously grazed by a ball or are left whining that so-and-so stepped two inches out-of-bounds.

And, the dodgeball league is far better than many I’ve participated in. At the University of Montana, I was a referee and participant in several intramural sports. I watched adults swear, whine and throw tantrums, elbows and punches. One 40-something-year-old man told me he hoped I was barren so I couldn’t reproduce an equally awful likeness of myself when he felt I missed a call in touch football. And, for a week, I walked around campus with a bruised cheek and black eye after another touch football player’s punch glanced off its intended recipient and landed squarely on my face.

The excuse for these actions, from the rule whining to the extreme, is usually the same: Competitiveness. Nonsense. I can’t even stand to lose at Scrabble, but “being competitive” or “getting caught up in the game” is no excuse for behaving this way, especially in games where the only thing at stake is a certificate, t-shirt or “team pride.” Funny that the latter is exactly what teams lose when they behave this way.