I used to officiate hockey a long time ago, my first or second year out of high school. It was perfect. An hour’s skate, and I got paid a few dollars.
That was the upside. The other end of it, of course, was being subjected to some of the minor hockey parents, though I didn’t have it too bad as I usually worked the lines.
Most of the time you’d laugh it off, like the time years and years ago at Prince of Wales Arena when a short, rotund female hockey player looked up at me and hissed, “Short, you’ve got shit in your eyes!”
But one memory isn’t quite as amusing. It was an Air Canada Cup provincial midget championship in what was then known as Brother O’Hehir Arena in St. John’s, and Corner Brook was the cream of the crop.
On the west coast squad was a young fellow named Wilf Payne. There was Payne, and then there was everybody else. He went on to play in the Ontario Hockey League back when few Newfoundlanders played major junior.
What the fans were crying out during that tournament was frightful. The general refrain was, “Get Payne!” With a few choice adjectives thrown in.
Mind you, the boy was all of 15 or 16.
Little has changed since then, and this would have been the early 1980s.
Minor sports still draws the zealots, who tend to get into it a little — in some cases a lot — too much.
Most of us have encountered them, in the rink or at the ball field or in the gym.
And nine times out of 10, they’re not bad people. They just get a little goofy when two teams are playing and officials are involved.
There’s always the 10th one who’s just plain nuts, but they’re inconsequential and generally not fit to be given the time of day anyway.
There aren’t a lot of that crowd, but they’re out there.
There was an incident recently in C.B.S. where a couple of parents got into it. Not a scrap or anything, but there were a lot of words exchanged and insults hurled back and forth.
Over a minor hockey game.
"Skate! Shoot! Move the puck! Hit the ball! Run! Stand up! Sit down! Move your hands! Move your feet! It would drive you nuts. Imagine how the poor kids feel?"
To be fair, it’s not like this is an everyday occurrence, but make no mistake: it happens.
What is commonplace is the unrelenting and idiotic schooling and banal encouragement that rains down from the stands to the youngsters on the ice or field or court.
Skate! Shoot! Move the puck! Hit the ball! Run! Stand up! Sit down! Move your hands! Move your feet!
It would drive you nuts.
Imagine how the poor kids feel?
I, however, have an answer to the problem.
The next time we encounter one of these intrusive, aggravating onlookers, here’s what we do: we kindly ask if he or she is involved in an activity. Golf. Slo-pitch. Yoga … whatever.
And then we learn when they’re next attending said activity, at which time we invite ourselves to tag along for 18 holes, screaming, pleading, begging, inquiring and instructing the poor sap on how to make a putt, use the wedge and, of course, how to keep their drive in the fairway.
At the yoga studio, we’ll continually remind them to breathe normally, to straighten the back, to follow the instructor, while we’re stuffing ourselves with fries, of course.
To the ball player in the 40-plus slo-pitch circuit, we’ll suggest they choke up on the bat, keep an eye to the ball, bring the hands through, follow the ball (didn’t we just mention that?), etc., etc.
And, don’t forget to inquire with a sense of exasperation, “How could you let that ball get through your legs? Who are you? Bill Buckner?”
In other words, we’ll be one great big, grating nuisance.
And only then, when we’re through, will we ask: “What makes you think it’s cool to do it to the kids?”