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Thump the ump?


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RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 6/1/2001

AH, SPRINGTIME. CHILDREN playing joyfully on soccer fields and baseball diamonds. News reports of parents attacking referees and umpires with words and fists. Sigh. The games children play have lately taken on a more serious aspect as grown-ups lacking self-control take out their anger on the people whose jobs are to maintain fair play on athletic fields.

Some communities are taking preventive measures. In Scarsdale, N.Y., local recreation officials have instituted a code of conduct to pre-empt eruptions of adult rage. The voluntary pledge bans parents and children from throwing tantrums, taunting, and making other verbal attacks. (No word whether hoary barbs like "Easy Out!" are on the list.)

Little League violence is as curious as the other examples of mundane berserkery we are increasingly apt to encounter. It seems to take less and less provocation to set people off. Yet, rather than accept such incidents as further evidence of irreversible social decline, a few communities like Scarsdale put the issue on the table along with game schedules, rosters, and the technical rules of play. Before a parent acts out because his kid was called out, he'll have to consciously ignore a special request that spectators limit their involvement to cheering their teams on.

Maybe it's absurd that the topic even needs addressing. But as is the case with so many of society's ills, from domestic violence to drunken driving, the actions of the few almost impel that conduct be stipulated and enforced. Most people understand that youth sports revolve around fun and wide-eyed love of the game. Learning to be equally gracious in victory or defeat is among the key lessons of life. It's difficult enough to explain to a child why the high-paid pros they admire show their arses on and off the field. The last thing a kid should witness is a teammate's dad (or his own) thumping the ump.

Parents may think they're acting in their child's best interest by lashing out when he or she is the victim of a bad call. Really, they're not thinking at all.