In light of last weekend’s fist fights and shootings at “The Stick” involving Raiders and Niners fans, coming on the heels of the viscous beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow during the Dodgers home opener, the Daily Press would like to remind those attending upcoming football games and other sporting events at local schools to keep in mind how much destruction can come from a split-second decision to hurl an insult or throw a punch.

It wasn’t too long ago — Sept. 25, 2009 — that an Inglewood teen was stabbed multiple times as he was leaving a Santa Monica High School football game held at Corsair Field. While that incident was ruled to be gang-related, it proves that violence can strike anywhere for any number of reasons. Taunting and acting unsportsmanlike shouldn’t be the spark.

We’ve been to many games over the years, reporting on and supporting our youth. For the most part fans of local high school sports and Little League know how to behave. But during some of those contests, there have been a few parents who have crossed the line with their comments. While no one was physically injured, there was some emotional bruising. Obsessed fans would say mean-spirited things about certain coaches, as well as the players — totally inappropriate and not in the spirit of the game. Kids should be encouraged, not made to feel inferior.

Student-athletes already face extreme pressure, either from their parents or their coaches and fellow students. No one wants to be considered a loser, and winning could mean the difference between earning a scholarship to a university a student-athlete may not be able to afford otherwise, or not getting an offer at all.

And as far as the coaches go, some don’t even get paid full-time. They have day jobs, but yet still find the time to show up at every practice and every game because they love mentoring kids and they love the game. We’re sure the extra cash doesn’t hurt either, but nobody is getting rich here. They don’t deserve to have parents bashing them from the stands. If a parent is unhappy with their child’s playing time or position on the team, have an adult conversation about it. Don’t heckle from the cheap seats.

Athletics, just like the arts, offer students an outlet, teaches them discipline and can become a vehicle for educational and economic advancement. Sports also help kids stay fit, and we all know how important that is (see chocolate milk debate below). Sports also provide fans an escape from reality, something sorely needed today when many are struggling to make ends meet. Sports also have the power to bring people together. They shouldn’t be used to tear people apart.

This school year, fans please be civil, be mindful of those around you and, most importantly, have fun. After all, whether it’s football, baseball or water polo, remember, it’s just a game.

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