During the state playoffs in high school football, a code of conduct is read before the game, usually just before the national anthem is played.
It's just a paragraph or so, but it's a nice reminder to the athletes what high school competition is all about, and that any inappropriate behavior won't be tolerated.
Well I think it might be time for a new code of conduct, which should be read before every contest in every sport in Western New York.
Not for the kids, though.
For the adults.
The year 2007 isn't too old, and while the students have done a great job on the playing field and in the stands, many of the adults at high school games certainly haven't begun the year with good sportsmanship. Here are some incidents -- from the past 10 days alone -- that this reporter has either witnessed or been told about. It's an all-inclusive list: suburbs, city, private and public.
*At a hockey game, there was a father who you couldn't avoid hearing if you held hockey gloves over your ears. For some reason he felt compelled to ride the officials the entire first two periods of the game, bellowing after every decision, whether the calls were controversial or not. The behavior wasn't only classless, it gave the nearby off-ice officials a headache and ruined the enjoyment of an outstanding game by fans within earshot, which probably included everyone in the rink.
*A basketball coach berated the opposing team's scorekeeper at the scorer's table. The scorekeepers have a difficult, pressure-filled job . . . that they volunteer for.
*A wrestling coach was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct to the officials at a tournament, which caused the meet to be delayed for about a half-hour as officials determined how severe a penalty to administer.
*A physical altercation occurred between two parents following a basketball game. They were both mothers.
*After a hard foul, an assistant basketball coach jumped out of his seat and menaced a player who was a step away.
*A hockey father perched over the glass of the penalty box to tell his son to keep his composure and not to get upset. I'll issue a two-minute penalty for being a hypocrite: Dad spent time yelling at the ref and was obviously over-involved by perching over the glass.
*A basketball mother called a coach after a loss and accused him of blowing the game.
I'm happy to say that these recent events are the exception rather than the rule, but any one of them is unacceptable. The worst thing I observe in high school sports is when the adults lose perspective. High school sports can do so much good to educate youth in all sorts of ways, but when adults start acting like infants the whole process is turned upside-down.
Here's this reporter's code: working the referees from the sideline is part of the game, but coaches (even those barking basketball assistants who seem to think the reason for their entire existence is to comment on every single call) need to remember that people are watching and listening -- most importantly, the players on their own team. The same working-the-refs policy goes for the fans.
Otherwise, if you are an adult in the stands and you feel the need to raise your voice at a game, it had better be to encourage the young people in the field. If not, shut your mouth.
And, student-athletes, keep up the good work. You're doing a great job setting an example for your parents.
'The greatest thing of all'
And now, back to the great things about high school sports:
Here's what Williamsville North hockey coach Bob Rosen, who was very close with John Cavagnaro, a 2005 North grad who died unexpectedly Jan. 13 and whose funeral was held Thursday, told his team after they tied St. Joe's on Thursday night.
"Hockey's about friendship. The bottom line is these are the best friends you're going to have the rest of your life. That's what someone told me, and the best friends I have to this day -- and I'm 45 years old -- are the kids I grew up playing hockey with.
"It's not just winning hockey games. It's the bonds and the friendships that develop from hockey . . . That's a special thing, and that was the special thing about John. . . . It's about being on a team, and being teammates. And that's the greatest thing of all."