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Parents gone wild

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

They are, on the surface, unassuming. They occupy their weekdays working nine-to-fives as insurance agents, realtors and accountants. They go to PTA meetings, host Tupperware parties and swap recipes for peach cobbler.But something changes between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m. nearly every Friday – something deeply, deeply ingrained in their DNA. Once they walk through those gym doors, these self-effacing high school parents are transformed, like Hickory High’s incessant devotees in “Hoosiers.”The fact that the majority of these people know basketball as well as I know Proust is inconsequential. What is most important, however, is screaming at the top of one’s lungs for no apparent reason. Without fail, these people always occupy the row of bleachers directly behind me. I was watching an Aspen girls basketball game last week when a women uncorked a heinous sound I can best describe as a combination of a yak’s mating call and a car backfiring – if you need a frame of reference, consider a duet between Cher and Celine Dion. It was almost as if I had placed my head inside the large end of a cheerleading cone during a piercing rendition of “Be aggressive.” Was she hiding a bullhorn in her Louis Vuitton purse? I didn’t know whether to be impressed or worry about sustained hearing loss. I soon discovered why the school hands out copies of team rosters. It’s not just so you can peruse the opposing team’s names for a few laughs (my personal favorite is Olathe guard Gami Arreola). The more practical application is to take the sheet, tear it in two, crumple it up and stick a half in each of your ear canals. I felt like I was back in my college dorm, sticking Kleenex in my ears in an attempt to drown out the sound of my neighbor. He was in a band – and I use that term loosely. Hearing loss aside, I love the passion local high school parents exude. There’s no other place in the country where a player can garner raucous applause for dribbling the ball off his/her foot at halfcourt, then collide with a teammate while trying to avoid the turnover. Heck, if you pay $3 – and buy a spaghetti dinner to help the prom committee buy more streamers – you’re entitled to let loose and act a little loony. Just don’t take it too far. A man was ejected from Aspen’s game Friday – I wasn’t able to confirm if he was an elected official – for being overly critical of officials. The incident came exactly two weeks after Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux was tossed from a game in Carbondale. While such behavior taints the athletic experience in our valley, it certainly pales in comparison to recent events nationwide: In the past year alone, a father of a football player shot his son’s coach outside the school in Texas. And a father in suburban Chicago, who was watching his son lose a wrestling match, bounded into the ring, picked up his son’s opponent and tossed the 11-year-old, according to The Associated Press. The man then set his sites on someone wielding a video camera. These are the people rearing our impressionable youth.Such people are the reason my mom used to watch me pitch from her car – she was concerned someone would criticize me and my sorry excuse for a fastball. High school sports venues at times resemble the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. And referees, coaches – even one’s own kids – don’t escape disparagement.Here are a few thoughts to ponder: • Parents, your kids can eat McDonald’s, even work at the fine institution, but they’re probably not going to be McDonald’s All-Americans. You’re continued badgering is not only useless, it could ultimately be detrimental.• I know this may come as a shock, but it is possible for your kid to foul someone or commit a three-second violation. Your kids are not entitled to preferential treatment, no matter who you are. The hardworking referees in this valley are not out to get you or your team. Trust me. • If you don’t know what charging or goaltending is, read up before you open your mouth.• Referees are human. They miss calls. Would you want someone looking over your shoulder while you work and mockingly pointing out all of your inaccuracies? Cut the men and women in stripes a little slack. • It’s just high school sports.Feel free to cheer. Go crazy, scream as loud as possible and show your team pride. All I ask is that you show some class – and some discretion. And please don’t sit behind me.Jon Maletz, aka “The Hammer,” an be reached at jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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