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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pushing the Kids too Far

Jim Cryns on Sports

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It’s spring, which means the beginning of tee-ball and soccer for kids. My young daughters began practices recently, which meant the purchase of two new baseball mitts, new cleats, bats, shin guards. It means league payments, team and parent orientations. I’ve been to more meetings in the past few weeks than a devout member of AA.


I don’t mind the commitment—fact is I volunteer to help coach tee-ball, and attend every practice. When I was a kid, my parents never so much as attended a game, I’m not sure they knew I played sports. As a grown and graying man I spend most of my free time protecting my daughters from errant line-drives, overzealous base runners and jackass coaches. Last weekend I began coaching with a guy who has some great fundamental knowledge of baseball, but the bedside manner of Dr. Kevorkian. He barked, he didn’t teach. He told kids how to stand in a harsh manner, never praising or encouraging the young players, some as young as seven. The man taught the kids how their knuckles should be aligned on the bat, more than I ever could have imparted on their curious minds, but his crappy attitude made the kids tune out and made me anxious. He doesn’t understand the ramifications of his words and attitude, it may wreck a kid for sports. They may become nervous about what a coach may say critically or how the coach may embarrass them in front of other players. At this age, sports should be all about the fundamentals, but mostly having fun. A numb-nuts coach can inflict irreparable harm on a kid’s attitude at this stage, in turn causing them to hate sports with a passion.


Parents in the stands or on the sidelines could use a refresher course in what playing at this level is all about. Some glory-day fixated father, or overenthusiastic soccer mom often overstep their bounds. One incident last year really chafed my ass. It was during a soccer tournament for kids ages seven, eight and nine, two games a day for two days. These are friggin’ kids, not trained athletes, and they shouldn’t be pushed to play that much in such quick succession. Making the situation worse, it was hot as hell. I kept my kid home for the second day rather than risk heat stroke and permanent paralysis. Push the high-school kids, leave the toddlers alone. Over the years I’ve learned to become more tolerant of other jags, i.e. mean people. In this instance, my frustration was justified. Two fathers attending one of the soccer games were loud, critical of the “children” on the field, almost abusive. Some people can’t let kids be kids. I’ve never seen one of these players come off the field bummed because they didn’t win, so why make them feel the pressure of winning at such a young age. When “their” team thrashed “my team,” these guys were as joyful as Dustin Diamond being recognized at the mall.


WGN aired a television program the other night, a 60th anniversary shared by the Chicago Cubs and WGN television. The two share an intimacy that goes beyond most marriages. If you didn’t grow up in Chicago, it doesn’t matter, the Cubs were everywhere, a lifespan longer than Dick Clark’s. My brother-in-law grew up in DePere, and he was a huge Cub’s fan thanks to the advent of a Superstation. No team can live up to the romance generated by the Cubs, despite their inability to win a title. There is no other venue in baseball that has a warmth and sense of nostalgia as Wrigley Field. I don’t care if you’re a diehard Brewers fan, if you haven’t been to Wrigley Field, you owe it to yourself to visit, you’ll be glad you did. The new stadiums have the huge mezzanine levels with hallways you can drive a semi through. At Wrigley, the food and beer vendors are a tobacco spit from the opposing wall. The urinals in the bathroom are horse troughs. Seriously, they’re long ceramic tubs, a throwback to the great depression. Most baseball stadiums have their personal memories, and I’m not trying to take anything away from them. But Wrigley has a sense of universality, with Harry Carray, Jack Brickhouse, steroid poster-boy Sammy Sosa. Milwaukee will never have that type of relationship with their ballpark, but we shouldn’t feel badly. No other city in the nation will share the same bond with their team and ballpark, at least not in our time.

Apropos of Nothing


Jim Paschke makes me ill. He couldn’t hold a moldy jockstrap to Hank Stoddard or Tim Van Vooren. The annoying play-by-play guy for the Bucks is a schmaltzy, brown-noser, and that’s when he’s with his family. Paschke’s mammoth cranium belongs on the radio, not on the visual medium of television. His voice could drive Osama Bin Laden out of a cave. Paschke had a grating personality as a sports-guy for Channel 6 a million years ago, and he hasn’t changed a bit. The Bucks may be hopeless, but they at least have a chance to improve, while Paschke will always be a jag. Trini Kusnierek of FSN really pisses me off. As much as I want to call her mindless blonde bimbo, she knows her stuff. She’s not your atypical nice-to-look-at female reporter, although she’s not all that hard to look at. She earned her stripes with the Pirates and ESPN. Kusnierek holds her own with others on the broadcast, maybe better than a few. Kusnierek should replace the effeminate giant fourth grader known as Craig Coshun entirely. This poser has stolen nuances and clichs from virtually every broadcaster who ever lived, down to the way he holds the microphone. If this guy ever actually played a sport in his life, I’ll trim Bob Uecker’s nose hair.

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