OKAY, WHO's ready to play What the Hell Were You Thinking, You Lard-Brained Ferret?
We start with you, Mr. Dan Hinkle of Fairfax County, Virginia.
You're the commissioner of a youth football league who decided to fire your son's coach because the guy switched your precious 12-year-old, Scott, from defense to offense for one game. You got rid of a man, James Owens, whom the kids loved so much, they refused to keep playing without him, even though they were in the playoffs! How Daddy Dearest can you be? We found out in an e-mail you wrote to Owens before the season started:
Scott does not sit out on defense—ever.... He goes in and stays in. That includes all practices, scrimmages and games. This entire league exists so he can play defense....
Well, aren't you a little Donald Chump? Now the boys are devastated and the parents are pissed. In a perfect world you'd find out one day that the kids had fired you.
Now you, Ms. Gaylene Heppe of Attleboro, Massachusetts.
As the principal of Willett Elementary School, you decided to ban tag. You said there were liability and safety issues involved with it. Tag! You also banned touch football and any other "contact" sports. What do you have there, a school full of hemophiliacs?
Don't you know that American kids are getting fatter than legless cats? Don't you know that the Centers for Disease Control predict that one out of three kids born in 2000 will likely develop diabetes, with obesity as a major risk factor? How are kids supposed to get exercise, by stacking cups?
It's worry-wimps like you who are raising the softest, most coddled, most indolent American generation in history. Schools have already taken away dodgeball and jungle gyms and diving boards. What's next, hopscotch? We're raising a generation of kids who'll bruise like bad bananas, sue when they lose at checkers and wonder why somebody isn't handing them a trophy for tying their shoes, which, by the way, they'll see for the last time at 16.
Your turn, Mr. Wayne Derkotch of Philadelphia.
Your son plays in a league for six- and seven-year-olds—six- and seven-year-olds!—and you felt he wasn't getting enough playing time, so you yelled at the coach, and the two of you ended up in a fight, which caused you, like any honorable man, to pull a .357 Magnum on him, according to witnesses.
You were booked for assault and reckless endangerment, and you may soon be getting plenty of playing time yourself—in a prison rec yard. In a perfect world, Mr. Derkotch, you'd show someone that gun in your waistband and it'd go off in Yerkrotch.
Now you, Mr. Mack Malone, the football coach at Willis (Texas) High.
One day last month, just before practice, you found out that six of your players were going to be late because they'd been giving blood for the school's blood drive. So what did you do? You kicked them off the team.
What was going on in your single-celled plankton brain? Is that the lesson you're trying to teach your players, that saving time is more important than saving lives?
After a big fuss was raised, you let the kids back on the team, but you still took away their starting jobs. In a perfect world, Coach, a wayward track-team javelin would land on your foot—during practice —forcing you to start your own blood drive.
Finally, stand before the judge, Mr. Kyle Tobin of Oscoda, Michigan.
Your Oscoda Area High football team got fricasseed every game this year. Didn't even score a point. Your players literally were getting clobbered. So, after four games, you canceled the rest of the season.
What were you thinking, you right-thinking, responsible leader?
In America coaches just don't do that. The guys with the whistles and polyester shorts would rather every kid on the team leave with a broken nose or a jigsaw-puzzle knee than quit. But you had the nerve to actually care for these kids beyond what they meant to your résumé. When a team is losing by scores of 46--0, 30--0 and 44--0 (twice) and barely has enough players to fill a roster, that's not football, that's just organized child abuse.
"I have 28 years of coaching experience in high school and college," you said, "and I know the difference between a team playing bad and a team that's unsafe."
Some of the parents wailed and some of the players protested, but your mind was made up, and your decision stands.
In a perfect sports world you'd be in charge of everybody else.
If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What was the coach thinking when he kicked six players off the football team for being late for practice—because they'd been giving blood for the school's blood drive?
RIFFS of REILLY
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PETER READ MILLER