Lankford: Setting the right example too hard for some prep sports fans
One thing that I came to grips with when I took the sports editor job at the Cassville Democrat is this:
Everywhere I go, I represent the newspaper.
Even though I may not be on the clock, people who see me would recognize me by the place I worked.
Taking the family out to eat? Representing the paper. Shopping at the retail store? Representing the paper. Meeting people on the street? Representing the paper.
I was fine with that. It was a challenge that was gladly met.
However, I am a very passionate fan. I ardently pull for the Missouri Tigers, Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, Missouri Southern Lions and Missouri State Bears.
I understand rivalries.
I was there when Missouri Southern and Pitt State brawled at Fred G. Hughes Stadium. I was there when the Gorilla and Lion mascots had a fist fight on the gymnasium floor that resulted in them being led away in handcuffs.
I've rooted against Denver, despised John Elway, and cursed the NCAA selection committee when they left the Bears out of the Big Dance.
But I always knew that it was just a game. When I began working at the newspaper, I had to control myself and show no rooting interest for the sake of my coverage. It has been hard, but I have won more battles than I have lost.
Yet, there are those fans who can't control themselves at games. More often than not, they're parents. They have even approached me about the best way to get a coach fired.
They criticize coaches, play calling, other players and then chide their child to obtain athletic heights that are -- to put it mildly -- impractical.
I was reminded of this fact at the Monett-Purdy baseball game when a Purdy fan, unhappy with a coach's decision about his child, stormed the pre-game huddle to give the coach a piece of his mind.
There seems to be a growing trend with fans becoming more brazen to "speak their minds" and not give any thought about the ramification of their actions.
I've watched as parents have stormed dugouts and demanded to know why a coach isn't playing their child. I've heard parents tell their children that they could ignore the coach's instructions because they pay for better coaching in the summer.
Some fans have nearly started fights in the stands because they couldn't control themselves.
My view is this: If you can't control yourself at a prep sporting event, don't go. If you think the coach is inept and not fit to lead the team, don't go. If you can't keep your emotions in check, don't go.
Sportsmanship is not dead. It is a trait that should dwell in all of us. It begins when we realize that we are cheering for young people between the ages of 14 and 18, not seasoned major league veterans.
Sportsmanship means supporting your team and not making a fool of yourself. It not only reflects badly on you, but permeates to reflect on the team and the community they represent. It teaches young minds that it is acceptable to berate individuals over trivial matters.
So, the next time you feel the urge to scream "Kill the ref" or "Fire the coach," remember this: The quickest way to immortality in the sports community is to act like a jerk in the stands.
Your actions speak loudly.
Jared Lankford is the sports editor of The Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com, or 417-847-2610.