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Archive for Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Editorial: Sports tragedy

Violent attacks on referees and umpires should be a wake-up call for everyone involved in athletic competition.

May 8, 2013

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The death last weekend of a youth soccer referee who had been punched by a 17-year-old player is tragic in a number of ways.

First, of course, is the death of a 46-year-old father of three daughters. Ricardo Portillo died last Saturday night, a week after he was punched in the face by a player who was upset with Portillo for issuing him a yellow card warning for egregious violation of the rules.

Shortly after the incident, Portillo complained of nausea and started vomiting blood. He was conscious when an ambulance arrived, but slipped into a coma shortly after he reached the hospital as a result of swelling in his brain. He never regained consciousness.

The teenager who struck him was booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault, but authorities reportedly were awaiting autopsy results and considering additional charges after Portillo’s death.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. After learning of Portillo’s death, Pete McCabe, a veteran referee recalled the injuries he suffered at the hands of a semi-pro football player for years ago. At the end of a game in Rochester, N.Y., the player slammed his helmet into McCabe’s face, fracturing his skull in several places and breaking almost every bone in his face. McCabe said he recalled thinking, “it’s going to happen again, and someone is going to get killed.”

Sadly, he was right.

How many other similar incidents have occurred involving sports officials and players? What drives players to that kind of behavior?

Those questions should be of serious concern to every coach who encourages aggressive behavior among his players, every parent who goes ballistic on the sidelines and every unruly fan who feels compelled to scream from the stands at players, coaches or officials. No matter how heated the game, coaches, parents, fans and players all need to be reminded that there is a limit to competitive zeal. This isn’t a war; it’s a game. The other people on the field or the court are not your enemies; they are players and coaches and officials — people with families, friends, dreams and, yes, flaws, just like you.

The death of Ricardo Portillo, who loved soccer and loved working as a referee, is unbelievably sad and frightening. How much madder would that fan who chased after Kansas University coach Bill Self in Ames, Iowa, have had to be to cause a serious injury, especially if he hadn’t caught the attention of security officers.

Better security may be part of the answer here, but armed guards shouldn’t be needed at a youth soccer game, like the one being officiated by Portillo. The Utah incident should serve as a call to action for coaches, parents, players and organizers to set a new standard of behavior that demands sportsmanship and doesn’t tolerate aggressive actions.

It’s a game. Players should want to win, but they should give the game and everyone involved in that game the same respect they deserve and want for themselves.

Comments

JayCat_67 11 months, 1 week ago

It's kind of pathetic when you have to warn a parent that they'll have to leave if they tell their kid to push another player because "the refs aren't calling it on the other team" or threaten to stop a game if a parent continues their behavior. Had to do both.

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havecents 11 months, 1 week ago

It all starts at home. Parents are becoming insane when it comes to athletics, less are holding kids accountable when they don't live up to their responsibilities, and more are enabling less than desirable behavior, and if anyone tries to correct it, they go ballistic. I've seen it over and over.
Parenting skills have declined dramatically in my lifetime. As parenting declines, everything else follows. Don't blame coaches, players, or anyone else. The proper behavior is a learned behavior and if it isn't learned at home before the age of 5, then what do you expect a school to do? The world of lawyers and psycho, coddling parents minimizes any control a school may have on issues. Now, if a coach is encouraging violent behavior, then they gotta go, but a majority of the time, it's parenting, or lack thereof. If everyone prioritized being a parent, we'd be better off instead of thinking "Little Johnny" is the next super star when everyone else can clearly see he is terrible.

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smitty 11 months, 1 week ago

How many other similar incidents have occurred involving sports officials and players? What drives players to that kind of behavior?

It doesn't happen in a vaccum..out last football coach was on multiple videos all over you tube cussing and abusing his players as the cheering section offensively shouted..Rip their f'g heads off . KU athletics allowed M to continue his abuse of the players that set the example for the fans to shout this violent cheer.sic The young ball players had been shown the example by the coach and permission granted to mimic his verbal abuse. The next obvious step is for the atlhetes to mimic the violent attitudes.

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