I Can't Hold My Tongue Any Longer (Maybe That's the Problem)

Chris GiffordContributor IJuly 14, 2009

The sky is falling.

At least, thats what a few people who have recently attended professional soccer matches would have you believe. They are so convinced that the world is spiraling into moral oblivion that they have written letters. Yes, letters! Can you believe it's come to this?

Mark, Heidi, and Andrew & Laurie all think that the behavior of soccer fans in America is reprehensible. They all three think that the fans curse too much, are completely disrespectful (of both other fans and opposing players) and that the stadium atmosphere is going to be the downfall of the game in these United States. They are basically saying that the atmosphere is too mean. They even say that, because of the moral depravity, they won't be returning to their respective stadia to take in a game. Even Columbus Dispatch Sports Editor Ray Stein thinks things are out of control.

Later folks. Drive safe. Thanks for coming.

The late, great Confucius once said "it is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." These "fans" have just proven him right. All of them claim to be sports fans, not just soccer fans. All three claim to have attended many of the events they now sweat to boycott. And all of them claim to be adults.

I don't know about you kids reading this, but I've seen and heard worse things at high school football games than I do at any Crew games (I can't speak for the Timbers as I've never been to Portland, but I assume the same is true). I also know for a fact that the atmosphere outside of an Ohio State football game is much more intense than anything that has ever occurred inside Crew Stadium.

The MLB has this "problem" (try wearing a Red Sox hat into Yankee Stadium, or the Bronx in general). I'm sure that hockey has rowdy fans, I mean, the sport itself encourages fighting. And let's not even talk about the NFL, lest someone mention the fact that Veterans Stadium in Philly had a jail in it to house the fans who got a little to rowdy.

But let's not look too deeply at sport, because that sample size is too small. What these concerned denizens of planet Earth are really saying to us is "hey guys, you're hurting my feelings and making me uncomfortable, and maybe someone else feels the same way."

These are the same type people who pushed to ban dodgeball from schools because it's unfair and exclusionary. Same goes for duck, duck, goose, and tag, and other playground games. Some will tell you that these games are unsafe, but most believe that little Johnny just can't handle the pressure of being "it."

I bet they also believe that youth sports shouldn't keep score, so that the game and fun are emphasized and not the winner or loser (because we're all winners in life, aren't we?). One guy I know once said "why are we gonna play if we aren't keeping score?" And that's the jist of it: people have been keeping score, in life and in sport, since the beginning of time. You can't avoid it, so why try to change it?

I hate to break it to you all, but life just ain't fair sometimes. In the real world, there are winners and losers, people will make fun of you, you will get singled out, and there will always be someone bigger and/or better than you. And the sooner we learn this as children the better we'll be able to cope with it as adults.

Yes, we need to clean up the language in the stadium, but I'd say that's about it. We taunt and jeer because we want our team to win. We scream and tease because (we believe) that our team is better than yours. Do we need the f-bomb? No, it’s called the f-bomb for a reason: It should be devastating when you drop it.

But should we stop taunting opposing players? Stop calling out opposing fans? Relax the competitiveness? No, no, and no.

There are many lessons that kids, and humans too, can learn form sports that translate into life. There's teamwork, creative thinking, adaptation, perseverance, the ability to fight adversity, a little math, and the myriad of physical skills. I, for one, wouldn't be half the man I am today if it wasn't for the sports I played growing up and still play today. I'd probably be a lot more timid and less willing to take risks. I also probably wouldn't have fought tooth and nail to get the promotion I received earlier this year.

If these letter writers can't handle all of the "negativity" that occurs in the sporting world, how do they handle it off the field? And, maybe more importantly, what are they teaching their children about the big, bad world?