When the little gentleman has put himself on guard, mimicking a boxing fight worthy of the 19th century with his fists and footworkAnd century, a shiver of shame ran down my spine.
Posted May 15
He had just punched a 17-year-old assistant referee in the face after insulting him with enough insistence and vehemence for a parent to have time to film the scene.
Luckily the linesman, who was a head taller than him, didn’t have time to fly him. Another parent knocked down the attacker. No doubt you have seen the images, captured from a mobile phone last weekend in Dollard-des-Ormeaux. They were broadcast on a loop earlier in the week, on all channels.
Knowing he was a grandfather coming to see his 14-year-old grandson playing soccer didn’t help matters. No more than being informed, by his own admission, that he is a retired teacher, in an apology letter that appeared to have been copied from the Dummies Guide: How to Avoid Lawsuits in Three Easy Steps.
A grandfather who thinks he’s Sugar Ray Leonard, delivering a right hook to an underage referee paid the minimum wage for a decision in a U-15 football match. And that describes in a letter his gesture as a “moment of loss”. The class (I’m not talking about his former workplace).
I’d put my hand in the fire that was for an offside. Assistant referees are almost always reprimanded for offside in football. And three quarters of the time, this is due to the fact that the viewer cannot distinguish an offside of erythematous and edematous, itchy, fleeting and migratory papules, affecting the integument. Don’t you know what it is? Me neither. He is Chinese. Like the offside for most parents in the stands at their children’s football matches.
They did not see the called ball, they did not pay attention to the precise moment the ball was distributed or the full back who was dragging his feet, but because they see the attacker of the opposing team suddenly only with the ball, the way you net towards the door, they decree with conviction that there is offside. I’ve felt it all my life. When I was a player, when I was a coach, when I was a referee, at my son’s games, two weeks ago again at the Saputo stadium.
Sometimes it’s not offside. Sometimes it’s a tough tackle or a hand that the referee misses. Sometimes the bloodshed has another origin, in another sport, in another context. When I was 16, mine trainer of football physically assaulted mine trainer hockey, after a provincial league game, because he felt his son hadn’t had enough time on the ice. An adult, who should lead by example.
The phenomenon of the parent – or the grandfather – losing the North is not new. But the referees increasingly seem to pay the price. Last month in Mississippi, a 12-year-old girl’s softball referee was assaulted from behind in the parking lot by a spectator wearing a “Mother of the Year” T-shirt.
In Georgia, also in April, a referee was attacked by parents and 14-year-old players from a church-affiliated basketball team. His injuries required 30 stitches. And in a hockey game in Colorado a few weeks ago, a father attacked a young referee by spraying his face with disinfectant.
In the United States, parental misbehavior is attributed to 75% of referees’ resignations in school sports (in high school), according to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Sports Officials. There is a shortage of referees in Quebec as well, my colleague Alexandre Pratt noted a year ago, speaking of minor hockey.
Events like the one with Saint-Laurent’s Will Smith will not encourage young players to become referees.
The crux of the “standing anger” problem, which has long been established by psychologists, are those parents who project onto their children or compensate for the shattered dreams of their youth in sports.
My first real job was a football referee, aged 14 to 16, on West Island where my grandparents’ Bruce Lee raged two Saturdays ago. I quickly realized that this was a thankless role, for which one is constantly criticized when mistakes are inevitable, and very rarely thanked for their efforts and good faith.
This experience has allowed me, since adolescence, to take full measure of the distressing extent of human stupidity. Parents mad with rage, who often do not know much about sports, but who nevertheless become experts, and who regress to childhood by uttering insults and sometimes even veiled threats to referees, coaches and even players. Forgetting that it is, in fact, child’s play.
On the fields from western Canada to the east coast of America via Dollard-des-Ormeaux, where I have often played, where I have seen my son play too, I have never seen a parent ridicule himself so much about this failed boxer of a former grandfather – teacher. But I have seen many fathers and mothers lose their sense of proportion, responsibility and the most elementary civilization. And most of the time I am ashamed of my neighbor.