Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023 |
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Jason GallicOpinions in Paradise
Pull the book off the shelf and dust through the pages.
You’ll need to,
because this story is older than Pop Warner football or the AYSO. Stretches a
lot further than that, actually, to the dawn of man, the initiation of a race.
Pride, that’s the theme here. And the quizzical question about exactly how
much is too much with regard to one of the seven deadly sins.
for the controversy — one that has raged on a lot bigger scale than our
island, by the way — is because it involves parents and their kids.
Undoubtedly the most sacred human bond in the universe, yes, but also providing
the kind of adhesive that allows a parent to come unhinged over sport.
is striking, really, the degree of disdain that can erupt in a parent who feels
their child has been cheated at a game. Or that their child has not been
properly represented in the newspaper.
But it is not the vileness that
necessarily grabs my attention, but the pleading and the utter emptiness that
can well in a parent whose kid is not recognized for their achievements on the
More than once in my three-year career in journalism has a
mother called in tears — yes, sentence-interrupting sobs — and wondered why
her boy or girl wasn’t mentioned in the newspaper for their sporting
And every time, the question is begged, What is the point of the
competition? Is it an outlet for athletic desire? A lesson in sportsmanship,
cohesion, teamwork and work ethic? A chance for the kid to grow in a healthy,
organized setting? Or is it about recognition in the media, letting everybody
else in the community know how good that boy or girl is — regardless of true
skill in relation to the other competing players?
Why do parents call the
newspaper crying? Why do grown men come out of the stands — this has become a
national epidemic — and pummel each other at little league baseball games
while their 12 year olds stand by and watch?
That, as yet, has not
happened in my four months on Kaua’i, but much of the pride has. And in greater
degree than in my last journalistic home — Florida. I’m not saying I’ve got
all the answers, but a few things are quite clear.
One, there exists an
incredible sense of lineage here, of the proliferation of the family name
through sport. I don’t think I’d attribute it to parental desire to live
vicariously through their children, because many of these parents were, in
fact, outstanding athletes themselves.
So, it’s just pride in the desire
that the family name stretch long on the island.
nearly impossible to ignore is the pedestal onto which these young athletes are
thrust here. It’s hardly their faults; there’s really nowhere else to turn. A
high school athlete on Kaua’i is looked at more reverently than any of the
sportsmen I knew at the NAIA college in St. Augustine, FL.
The names of
even Kaua’i’s average high school talent are better known than the upper
echelon of prep players in other places I’ve been. That’s okay, these kids are
providing a product, an outlet of entertainment. But the unceasing need for
recognition brings to a head questions about when it all becomes unhealthy.
When does that sense of pride begin to overwhelm reality?
and crying, that’s when.
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