Friday, December 17, 2010

Hey! Show some class!

 Is the human male’s instinct to protect its young as voracious as the female’s?

You decide.

Lately, I’ve been prone to exercising my own brand of paternal vigilantism, and I think it may be time to step back, calm down and possibly evaluate pharmaceutical options. 

I’ve been yelling…at children…children I don’t know.

On Tuesday night, my daughter’s high school basketball teams hosted a “quad,” where the boys’ junior varsity, girls’ junior varsity, boys’ varsity and girls’ varsity, play four games against their respective counterparts from another school. It’s an economically prudent measure for a school district that isn’t on sound fiscal footing—one trip, one bus.

My daughter’s team played the evening finale, so the opponents’ squads who had already played were seated in the bleachers, clearly identifying themselves in their matching warm-ups. Two players from the visiting boys’ team were seated apart from their teammates, in folding chairs near my daughter’s team bench and behind the basket.

One of these kids caught my attention almost immediately after the girls’ game tipped off. He did anything possible to distract the home team, standing and waving his arms during free throws, yelling at the players, even booing a referee’s call with which he disagreed. Initially, I tried to ignore the obnoxious, six-and-a-half-foot man-child, but soon, my stomach acid was churning, begging for attention like a bouncing bile puppy.

I felt myself slowly transforming from Bill Bixby into Lou Ferrigno. Sometime during the third quarter, I’m not sure when, I felt my legs lift my body out of the seated position and carry it down the steps toward the corner where the giant jester lie in wait.

“Hey!” I yelled. No response. Again, “Hey!” He looked over at me. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? I’ve been watching you for the past three quarters. You’re harassing our players while they shoot free throws.”

“No I’m not.”

“I saw you.” And this is where I ceased being Lou Ferrigno and became Lionel Haywood, my father. “You’re sitting there, representing your school, wearing your team colors and showing no class whatsoever.”

“F&#k you,” he mumbled, looking away.

“What did you just say?” Back to Ferrigno. “I’ll tell you what. If you want to cheer for your team, that’s fine. But if I hear or see another taunt, your coach is going to hear about it. Got it?”

I felt his eyes bore into me as I turned and ascended the steps to my seat. As I resumed watching the game, we again made eye contact. “Show some class,” I mouthed to him, again channeling my father.

As I rose to leave after the game, my peripheral vision glimpsed his tall figure approaching from the left. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Sir.” He stood next to me but looked down at the top of my head. “I just want to apologize. I behaved badly and I’m sorry.”

“Uh, I appreciate that. Thanks.” I shook his hand, feeling surprised and relieved.

On the drive home, I pondered the evening’s happenings, and decided that, although my actions were justified, I really needed to savor these contests a little more; I should not allow these outside factors to influence my enjoyment of watching my girl play hoops.

Two nights later, in a hotly contested grudge match on the floor of the cross-town rival, my daughter shot an air ball while attempting a three-pointer.

The opposing student section launched into a familiar chant: “Airrrrballlll! Airrrrrballlll!”

Okay, I thought, now’s the time to take my own advice. Just brush it off. No big deal; they’re just kids. I glanced to my left, where two skinny ninth-graders joined in the chant.

“Hey, you guys. Show some class. That’s my kid.”

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