It’s baseball and softball season again, and the local fields in our community are full of energetic boys and girls who are eager to hit a homerun or make a double play.

The excitement of the sport gets intense—sometimes too intense. Last year, there was a brawl at a T-ball game. The players were not brawling; the parents were. After a disputed call by an umpire at a T-ball game in Miami, dozens of parents left the stands and engaged in an on-the-field brawl as their pre-adolescent children watched in disbelief. It’s no wonder that some parks and recreation managers have proposed banning parents from their children’s games.

From the little leagues to the major leagues, some fans seem to have become rowdier in recent years. Last summer, during a major league baseball game, fans and visiting players were involved in an altercation which led to the ejection of some fans, the suspension of some players, and lawsuits on behalf of both.

A local coordinator for a youth sports program was recently interviewed on the evening news. He stated that it was almost impossible to find umpires for the leagues because of unruly behavior, not on the part of the athletes, but on the part of the fans, mostly parents and grandparents.

At least one national news agency picked up the story of the youth soccer league that declared game day as “Silent Sunday.” Fans could attend the games only if they agreed to sit quietly without cheer or comment.

Sports arenas and ballparks are intended to be places of fun, leisure and recreation. Competitive sports present opportunities for physical development, goal orientation and team play, not to mention exciting and wholesome entertainment.

This month marks the beginning of a new season in many sports. Make this season a good one by observing some positive guidelines of fan behavior:

  1. Cheer enthusiastically for your team and avoid disparaging remarks against individual players, coaches or the other team.
  2. Appreciate the hard work of your coaches and players. Players and coaches work hard both on and off the field to excel.
  3. Encourage your team with positive words of support. Never resort to abusive and profane language.
  4. Support your team in the best—and in the worst—of times.
  5. Remember that umpires and referees occasionally make mistakes. However, because they are closer to the action, they are right most of the time.
  6. Be considerate of other fans seated near you. Their children and friends are on the field too.
  7. Have self-respect. If you can’t control your tongue and your temper, please stay at home.

Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.

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