With very mixed feeling we agreed to allow Tom to play Youth Football for the Giants. He's a terrific athlete and showed enormous skill and enthusiasm playing flag football 2 years ago. We were relieved when he got through last year, his first in Youth Football, with minor cuts and bruises. The injuries sustained by 5th grade/6th grade players were a part of the game, accidents, not created by intent. Sportsmanship was evident throughout the season.
But yesterday, this year's 5th/6th grade team encountered something totally different; a player (#37) on the Kenilworth team, who played with the clear intent of hurting players. When he tackled my stepson by slamming him by the helmet to the ground, knocking him out of the game, he stood over him and yelled "It's your own fault, buddy." When he held and pulled facemasks multiple times he was undetered, regardless of the penalties. A conversation of the Kenilworth players seemed to suggest that #37 was a 7th grader, and shouldn't have been on the Kenilwoth team. When #37 had, in fact, committed his 6th or 7th personal foul, our coaches complained to the refs. Apparently, the rule book states that a player committing 3 such fouls is to be thrown out of the game. Instead, the refs. told our coaches to "Stop whining."
When Kenilworth lined up on for a two-point conversion to win the game in overtime and had twelve men on the field, the refs. somehow didn't see it, call a penalty or listen to our coaches. Game over. Kenilworth won.
In the car driving home we talked to Tom about how he was feeling, both physically and in regard to the loss. Tom is, in no way, a sore loser. He's a true sportsman. Much as he loves to win, he'll accept a loss as long as he and the team have tried their best, and the game's played fairly. But this game hadn't been, and he knew it. He spent fifteen minutes talking to us about #37 and wondering why the refs. let the dirty play happen. I asked him why he thought his team didn't get retribution, and he talked about playing the "right way." Apparently, Coach Jeff praised his team after the game for not stooping to the same level as Kenilworth.
I remember a 1986 Chicago Bears' game when Jim McMahon was picked up and thrown to the ground by Charles Martin after throwing a pass. It was a completely dirty play, like #37's on Tom. This bad behavior starts with parents, is reinforced by coaches and endorsed by refs and indifferent league officials at a time when boys' values can go either way. Someday a young boy in this league could get hurt very badly, especially with #37 allowed to play. Jim MacMahon's living with dementia. We only hope Tom will be okay. At least his values are.