No one expects parents to be completely objective about their children. But, increasingly, too many parents expect sports coaches and referees to abandon their own objectivity regarding those kids.
So when Junior fumbles, fouls, strikes out or kicks the ball out of bounds, many parents take it out on umpires and referees as if they are the young star's only obstacle to a college athletic scholarship.
The abuse has become pervasive, so much so that it has created a shortage of sports officials. According to AthleticsBusiness, a trade publication, more than 80% of sports officials quit within their first two years, 75% of whom, in surveys, have cited misbehavior by adults as their reason. Nationwide, there are more sports officials older than 60 than younger than 30.
Pennsylvania is among 21 states where there is a separate criminal charge for attacking a sports official, but that doesn't cover more typical non-physical harassment.
State Rep. Anita Astorino Kulik, an Allegheny County Democrat, wants to expand the law to include harassment.
Though well-intended and aimed at a legitimate problem, such a law would risk infringing on speech rights.
A better course would be for strict enforcement of existing Pennsylvanian Interscholastic Athletic Association rules for conduct at sports events, and adoption of those rules for non-PIAA youth sports. They hold that a game ticket is "not a license to verbally assault others and be generally obnoxious."
School or youth league officials should remind spectators of the rules at every game, and show the door to those who can't abide by them.
The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.