Regarding your Aug. 7 article "Teaching parents to be better sports": I must present a different point of view on competition and youth athletics. American society is based on competition. As Pete Carril, the famed Princeton University basketball coach, advocated while the strong take from the weak, the smart take from the strong.
It is the job of every recreational coach to teach his players that everyone keeps score, some on a basketball court, others with a checkbook. Each coach has the obligation to teach their young athletes what it takes to win. If we accept losing as an alternative, we will be teaching our children that mediocrity is acceptable. When that acceptance becomes a philosophy, the future of our country looks pretty dim. The only thing one can learn from losing is that he or she must work harder to succeed. It's not about sport, it's about life.
As an official of three sports, football, basketball, and softball, I see all types of parents. Parents have followed me out to my car yelling obscenities at me because I fouled out their Johnny or Susie from a basketball game. I have been threatened by parents at ballgames their children lost because of "bad calls."
Because of all the harassment, fewer people want to be officials and referees in youth sports. The intensity of sports "fans" has increased tremendously, but many fans and even coaches don't really know the rules. Rules have been modified to protect the players, and often, no matter what call is made, someone is going to be upset.
Parents need to lighten up and let the kids play. I have had many kids come up to me while their coach is yelling about calls and say, "Don't worry about it, he's always like that," or "I think you are doing a good job no matter what the crowd says." Parents should remember that while there are bad officials out there, some are also just learning.
The impending war between the United States and Iraq threatens a loss of life on both sides that is frightening, even if such a war were fought using conventional weaponry. If Saddam Hussein uses chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons against US troops, Iraqi opposition forces, or Israel, the potential cost would be staggering. Even if one believes that there are circumstances when war can be justified, there are also times when one can justifiably assert: "Not here not now."
We stand today at such a place and time. It is not just the human cost of one war that is at stake. The Arab states of the Middle East are standing in direct opposition to a US war against Iraq. Unlike the Gulf War, there is no coalition upon which the US can rely for military or moral support.
In fact, the very opposite is true. War with Iraq engenders the possibility of a prolonged armed conflict between the Western democracies and the entire Arab and Muslim world. A conflict of worldwide proportions could follow, one that might cost millions of lives; destroy the social and economic fabric of countless nations; and create religious, racial, and ethnic hatreds that would last for generations.
President Bush and our senators and congressmen must strengthen our relationships with moderate Arab leaders, and seek other avenues to prevent Mr. Hussein from using his dangerous weaponry.
Let us honor those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by working and praying for a peaceful end to terrorism and all political oppression, and by seeking reconciliation among people of all faiths.
Allan J. Ballinger
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