When I was little girl, my mom hauled me to all of her baby brother’s high school baseball games. He was a pitcher, and his team made it to the playoffs more than one season, even winning a state championship one year. My uncle’s nickname was “Nudge.” It was sort of a play on or an abbreviation of his last name. And he liked it. I’m pretty sure some of his classmates still call him that to this day.
But during one particularly heated playoff game, the opposing team’s fans got wind of his moniker and decided to start heckling him as he was on the mound. But instead of calling him “Nudge,” they started calling my uncle, who was a bit pudgy at the time, “Fudge.”
I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old at the time, but to this day, I remember being terribly distressed by this. And wanting to throw things at those horrible, horrible, horrible people.
As I got older, my friends who already had kids playing various sports would tell me tales of the terrible parents they encountered in the stands. I remember one friend telling me how her son was pitching one day and was not having his best game, and the mother of another pitcher on their own team started screaming to pull my friend’s son out and put hers in.
The woman was sitting three rows up from my friend. Just hearing this story made my chest tighten. I asked her, “What did you say to her?”
My friend said she gave her some nasty looks, but that was it. She said, “Some parents just suck and you just have to grin and bear it. If you engage, it will only make it worse and embarrass your child even more.”
I know she’s right. But still ….
I said, “But that’s YOUR baby that sad and pathetic excuse for a human being is yelling about! I would seriously want her to fall off the back of the bleachers and sustain the head injury she so richly deserves, and it’s not even my child. How can you just ‘grin and bear it?’”
She just shrugged and said, “It’s just all part of it.”
Ugh. I was going to want no “part” of this. I knew when I had children of my own I would have to be tranquilized to attend their sporting events if this was the kind of thing that was going to happen.
Another friend says when her boys are playing baseball and she encounters these devil parents in the stands, she just says, “Bless their hearts,” over and over again to herself to get her through and maybe occasionally loudly enough to another parent where they might hear it and hopefully self-correct. They never do.
But I don’t want their hearts blessed, I want the arteries in them to clog immediately and for them to fall over, screaming, “I’m having chest pains!” I don’t want them to die, but enough for them to be carried away on a stretcher. To another place — that is just not there.
Maybe while they are eating Jell-O and sipping beef broth in the hospital the next day they will regret what they were doing to someone else’s child and think twice about it before opening their big, stupid mouth at the ballpark again.
Is that wrong? Does this make me sound crazy? OK, fine, maybe they don’t have to go to the hospital, but can they just pass out and not regain consciousness until the game is over? Or at least a sudden case of laryngitis? Is that too much to ask?
Lucky for me (and for my children), the sports we have played thus far have been free from all that noise. My daughter just finished up second grade soccer, and I think most of the parents were just happy the kids were running toward the right goal and that their little feet occasionally made contact with the ball.
My fourth grader has played soccer, football and basketball, and all of that was fine, too. But you know, they were/are babies and everyone — players and parents alike — took it for what it was, and no one got that worked up.
It wasn’t until this year, my son really found his “passion,” as he calls it, and that passion is tennis. And things got a little more serious.
But I could have not been more elated! An individual sport? Hell yes! This would be so good for my personal mental health, as there would be no other Nasty Mamas in the stands whose heart I would have to bless (or curse) or that I would have to wish another serious (but non-life-threatening) injury upon because she couldn’t yell to the coach for my son to be taken out. There are no coaches! There are no backups. Bliss!
As we have entered the world of tournaments, the only thing that is a little awkward is you sometimes have to sit right next to the other player’s parents, who, of course, are happy when their kid wins a point and yours doesn’t. But that feeling, of course, runs both ways and so far everyone has been very kind and cool about it, with both parents clapping for a nice rally or shot, no matter who wins it.
I pitied my friends who were baseball and football moms who were going to have to deal with gross bleacher parents for years to come. I would be having none of that as a tennis mom, I thought smugly!
And that had been the case … until we went to an out-of-state tournament.
My son and his partner were playing in a doubles match against two other little guys who live in another state. The rules are a little different in doubles and everyone was pretty new to it and trying to just get used to it. This wasn’t Wimbledon, after all.
It was a pretty close match and a great learning experience for everyone, but as our guys pulled ahead, the other parents and grandparents (poison apples don’t fall far from the tree) started what can only be described as “hollerin’” and calling our children “cheaters!”
WHHHAAAAATTTTTTT????? My baby was not cheating!
My chest started tightening. I was turning from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk on the inside, but trying to maintain the composure of Mother Teresa on the outside.
The grandmother of my son’s partner, who has been playing a little longer, leaned over and said they had played these kids before in singles, and these parents always do this.
Noooooooooo! There is no hollerin’ or name callin’ in tennis! I had convinced myself of this.
I leaned back over to her and said, “It’s just so tacky.” As the word “tacky” came out of my mouth, the hollerin’ mother was looking at me, and I know if she didn’t hear it, she certainly read my lips. Maybe part of me wanted her to. In any case, it didn’t deter her from calling our precious angels names.
But though I secretly like to wish (non-life-threatening) lightning strikes and tree limbs to fall on a-holes who act like this, especially when kids are involved, I am admittedly kind of a chicken. And the thought of getting into a confrontation with this woman who looked like she enjoyed a good scrap started to terrify me.
I spent the rest of the match trying to think of what my comeback would be if she came up to me after the match, hollerin’, “Did you call me tacky, b*tch?”
Everything I came up with was way too mean, and it didn’t matter, as I knew I wouldn’t actually say any of these things out loud, but just thinking of them really calmed me down! This would be my coping mechanism! By the time our kids won match point, all I could think about the hollerers was, “Bless their hearts.”
Though I came to the sad realization that day that there are always going to be THOSE parents in every sport, the important thing is that you don’t turn into them too. At least on the outside. The horrible things you think about them on the inside, well, that’s your business. Muhahahahahhahaha!
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