I was 8. It was my turn at the plate. I was a scrawny right fielder who only got to play two innings a game, which was the minimum required by Little League rules at the time.
But here it was, the bottom of the fifth inning, the last inning. The game was tied, there’s a runner on third and I’m batting.
The pitcher released the ball. It’s been 25 years but what I can still remember the ball coming towards me and then seeing it rocket towards the fence off of my bat. I’d hit it, hard.
I ran nervously to first then rounded second. I saw the left fielder running to the fence to fetch the ball. I kept running until I finally crossed third base. I looked up at one of the umpires and all he said was “game.”
It was a great moment for an 8-year-old bench warmer. I had the game-winning hit. As I ran to the dugout, my coach lifted me up off the ground and into the air. The other players slapped me on the back congratulating me.
Then out of nowhere, I hear a man screaming at the umpire.
“He didn’t touch the plate!”
Apparently the opposing coach thought the runner on third didn’t step on home plate and he was therefore out, making it a tie game again. The umpire told him the runner did touch home and that he needed to go coach to pack it in. But the coach was not letting it go.
“HE DIDN’T TOUCH THE PLATE!”
It was a shocking moment for me because in my sheltered youth, I’d never heard or seen an adult act like that. And he had to do it in what was then the only shining moment of my life.
This incident was a cornerstone of what I would see in parents as I grew up. Ordinary, good people can immediately shift to ridiculous, selfish tendencies when it comes to their children. They’ll lie on scholarship applications. They’ll cheat at kids’ sports. They’ll harass teachers to get their child a second chance at a test. They’ll call in every favor they have to get their kid into the right college.
I don’t remember my parents acting like that for the most part. Maybe they skirted the rules here and there for me but I didn’t know about it.
It raises an important question though. Why do adults advocate honesty, integrity and morality then turn right around and go against that code to protect, promote and gain advantages for their children? Here’s a good piece on the subject that got me thinking.
The yelling coach really colored my view about parents’ behavior with regards to their children’s lives. It makes you wonder that if they’re willing to bend their morality for their kids, do they bend the rules for themselves too? Are they really doing these unethical acts for their kids or for their own egos?
My guess is that most parents don’t realize they do it. Some may think that they’re doing the right thing and rationalize it because they feel their kid shouldn’t have to suffer from any type of setback. Some do realize it and they just don’t care.
Quite frankly, to me, it’s disgusting. I find it especially repugnant when they do it at the expense of another child who did nothing to deserve their destructive intervention. Acting selfish on your child’s behalf is no excuse. It’s still just as wrong as if you did it for yourself. Loving your child and wanting them to get ahead in life can’t justify abject unethical behavior.
Stand up for your kid when you need to. Confront a teacher when there’s a genuine problem. Call out a coach when they’re too hard on the team. My yelling coach? At least he got mad about the enforcement of a rule to the game. Maybe he went too far and served a bad example about how to behave but his protest was coming from the right place.
But for God’s sakes, don’t cheat, lie, steal, yell or hurt other people when you know your child is: a) in the wrong b) at fault or c) lost fairly.
Eventually my daughter will grow up and will join dance, play sports, take AP classes and the like. If she fails or if she doesn’t make varsity or if she doesn’t get a scholarship, I hope I have what it takes to let it happen and not flex my ethics to save her. She may not like it and she may hate me for it but hopefully she’ll see it’s the right thing to do.
Hopefully I will see it’s the right thing too.