The state of our nation, as seen from the sidelines

I was able to experience something this week that summed up much of what is bothering me about this day and age we live in. I saw enough to weaken my faith in humanity.

Now, considering the larger events around the world, this might sound pretty trivial. Not saying that this begins to compare to the bigger tragedies around the world. It’s just an assessment of where I feel like we are as a nation.

The scene is a recreation league football game. Children. Kids ranging from eight to fourteen years old. Our kids that we have handed off to this organization to learn and play the game. The most important parts of our lives are in the middle of this event.

Two very different teams facing off. Two very different coaching styles on the field. Thousands of influences, distractions and attitudes are surrounding our kids.

Team A has a pretty tight group, mostly behaved, well disciplined and above average skills for most players.

Team B is obviously stronger and faster, but substantially less organized and showing unsportsmanlike behavior before the game even begins.

It’s a pretty balanced game, in terms of scoring and movement, until about halftime.

Players on team A seem to have better endurance, they are still moving at the same pace. Team B is getting sloppier. Dropping passes, fumbling the ball, making simple mistakes that cause penalties. After halftime, the atmosphere is changing.

With Team A ahead by one touchdown, Team B starts playing hyper-aggressively. Violently. After talking with someone on their sidelines, I was told that the coaches were encouraging the players to hurt the other team. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, three key players from Team A had been carried off the field.

Without these players, the dynamics change and Team B takes the lead.

Once they are in the lead, the atmosphere adds arrogance to the growing list of aromas coming from that side of the field. The obnoxious behavior is now being expressed in interpretive dance.

If I may, let me back up and add another detail. This group allows a DJ to play whatever they want from the sidelines. Generally, they are playing rap music with lyrics about sex and violence. And a lot of both. The kids all seem to know the lyrics and whatever dance moves accompany them from videos they watch.

I am not easily offended, but this entire group seemed to be frantically searching me for buttons to push.

So, add to the images of the game, the mixed images of people on the field and sidelines grinding to whatever the amateur DJ is pushing through his highly distorted and underpowered system.

As I am trying to absorb all this, I can’t help but watch the refs on the field trying to keep it all under control.

Parents are now on the sidelines screaming at the players and refs. Children are running through the the crowds and around the field completely unsupervised. The coaches are yelling at the players, and continue to walk onto the field even though the refs tell them not to.

Take it one step farther. This is a rural community. There are neighborhoods all around the field.

From my seat, I have the background ambience of the same type music blasting from cars driving by for the duration of the game. That is occasionally broken up by a motorcycle racing past or another car doing a burnout. I can see the neighborhood kids walking and playing in the midst of people driving like they were the last living humans.

The game ended with Team B up by two touchdowns, a whole lot of arrogant behavior including their head coach on the field talking trash and yelling at everyone. The coach refused to allow his players to make the traditional walk across the field to slap hands with the other team. They simply ran off the field screaming and talking trash.

To top it off, the police had to be called because Team A players jumped some of Team B’s player after the game and ended up in a huge fight.

All this might sound like I am overreacting, but I really don’t care. When I see people reduce themselves to post-apocalyptic social skills over a football game, it concerns me. I have figured out a few things after all these years of making my own mistakes.

I understand that criminal and sociopathic behavior doesn’t generally happen on it’s own.

The worst people in the world have a past that shaped who they are. When war breaks out, it’s from something that has been brewing and was not resolved peacefully. When riots and lootings break out, the rioters don’t just suddenly become dangerous thugs in that moment, something has been building up in them for a while and suddenly finds an outlet.

I understand that anything we tolerate is something we are allowing to exist.

In my neighborhood, I don’t tolerate the behavior I witnessed over there. Speeding, burn outs, loud music, creepy behavior… Anything that disturbs or threatens my kids or neighbors, and I call the cops or go talk with them myself. Sure, I might be the local jackass to a lot of people, but my street is pretty quiet.

As far as managing my own kids, we had three types of behavior that were not tolerated. Lying, trying to hurt someone else and refusing to do what they were told. My kids aren’t perfect, but they are respectful and sociable. We didn’t tolerate stupid behavior from our kids. I would appreciate it you did the same.

I also understand that the best way to vote on something is usually with your feet.

Church, business, little league sports, whatever… If things are not going to change or improve, move on. Life is too short and fragile to tolerate abusive and dangerous situations. Do not risk your kids or your life over stupid stuff.

If the parents refuse to allow their kids to train under a coach like that, something would change quickly. You can’t coach someone who isn’t there. When enough players and parents decide that someone has no business in leadership, they can be replaced.

I also understand that there are things we have control over and things we don’t.

We are responsible for the things we do. If we can change something or make something better, we probably should. Being kind, smiling at people, being considerate and acting like a decent person doesn’t cost anything.

The main thing I understand is this… There is no better way for a child to grow into a healthy, responsible and productive adult than through the influence of a father who loves them and models that behavior for them.

Women should not have to manage the full responsibility of the family. These neighborhoods are full of single moms trying to survive because daddy had something better to do with his life. Men who will not take responsibility for their families are the single worst cause the problems in the world. Yeah, that’s what I said.

Wars and fighting will end when we all love our children more than we hate our enemies.* Keep the kids in mind when you make decisions about how to resolve things.

The current level of arrogance, selfishness, foolishness as well as the general disregard for life is a little overwhelming. Something has to change. We can’t fix everything, we can’t change everything, but we can all make a difference.

We can stop and check ourselves. We can reevaluate our own priorities and adjust our lives to keep them in the proper place. We can take a breath before reacting and occasionally give others the benefit of the doubt. We can give a little time and money to make someone else’s life better. We can slow down a little and enjoy life. We can make an effort to be a little more considerate.

Life is a gift. Our children are following our examples. We have to do better. We can only blame others for so much.

The rest is on us.

If you want more tirades and opinions like this one… consider picking up my book Becoming a Better Man.

(* With all due respect to Golda Mier.)

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