Not a Fan

By Ryan Krzykowski

It happens all the time, and last week I got to see it up close for myself.  I sat at a 10-year old baseball game and watched as a brawl between two sets of fans nearly broke out.  The particulars of what led up to the confrontations aren’t that interesting, but suffice it to say that the entire situation was ugly and 100% preventable.  

I’ve also been doing a good bit of reading lately, having just finished an excellent book called Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman.  I loved the book, and feel like it should have a significant impact on my life, but that isn’t why I mention it here.  For the purpose of this post, I’m simply looking at the title.  Not a fan.  When I go watch one of my kids play a game, I’m not a fan.  I’m a Dad.  And if you’ll allow me to step onto my high horse for a moment, as I look around at these games, I appear to be very much in the minority.  Most of the parents, relatives and friends at these games show up and slip into “sports fan” mode.  They complain about the coaching, fuss at the officials, shout what mostly amounts to incredibly unhelpful advice to their children, and get frustrated when a child makes an error or swings and misses.  It’s crazy.

It’s gotten to the point at some of these games that I got an email not long ago that made my day.  And at the exact same time, it was kind of depressing that things have regressed to the point that this email was required.  It came from a company that runs weekend tournaments, and the basic gist was that beginning with Memorial Day events, there would be a zero tolerance policy toward bad behavior by spectators.  Coaches and players associated with the unruly “fans” could be ejected and/or games could be forfeited due to verbal abuse or ridiculing of officials by those in the stands.  The goals/rationale behind the policy read like this:

  • To improve the player experience with respectful behavior in the stands
  • Officials are in a major shortage, partly because of bad behavior by parents and coaches

I love the policy, but like I said earlier, it breaks my heart that things have gotten to the point that this was deemed necessary.

Years ago I worked with a guy who had a lot of things figured out, at a time when I had a lot to learn.  His kids are older than mine, and I remember thinking he was nuts when he told me he didn’t care who won the game when he went to watch them play.  At the time my oldest son was about 4.  Jason was so right, but it took me years to get to that point.  These days when I watch my boys, I certainly pull for them and their teammates to do well, but I also can appreciate a great effort by one of their opponents.  I don’t get irritated if a kid makes a mistake.  (A few weeks back I had to stop myself from confronting a “fan” of my ten-year old son’s team after I heard him disgustedly say, “come on, hit the ball” after my son swung and missed at strike one.  It wasn’t even strike three, it was strike one.  He ended up hitting a double, but this clown was ticked off because a child swung and missed at a pitch.  I can’t even imagine how miserable that person’s life must be.)

Parents, when you go watch your kids play, sit back, relax and enjoy it.  Be a parent.  Don’t be a fan.

Coaches, do your very best to help parents stay positive and enjoy the gift of watching their children play.  Also, model the behavior you want them to exhibit.

PS If you are under the impression that anything I’ve suggested here negatively affects a child’s ability or desire to play hard and to play their best, you are badly mistaken.  Give it a try and watch what happens.  Or send me an email through the CFC contact page and let’s talk about it.