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Night of the Living Soccer Moms
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
Like the replicant in Blade Runner, I've seen some pretty awful things. I've forced myself to attend spectacles of depravity, I've willingly alligned myself with people I distrust, I've ponied up money and time to experience the seamier sides of life in Fort Wayne, all in the wan hope that I'd learn something edifying about the city I live in. Knowledge is power, the saying goes, but more than that I want to be a reliable witness to the spirit of the times here, to record with objectivity all aspects of social activity in my hometown, even the ones that terrify me with their dark and demonic power. This is how I justify going to the Cher concert, going to the tractor pull, going to the "Big Daddy/Best Boy" contest at Fort Wayne's leather bar. I want to see it all, even if it means losing my soul in the process.
None of my encounters with the twisted forces out there, however, prepared me for the singular horror of seeing a kid's soccer game in Fort Wayne. It took all of three minutes before I heard the first shocking, vicious scream-down of an eight-year old child by a bulging-eyed fanatic of a parent. And I'm not talking about the usual exhortations from sports fans here--I'm talking about insane and personal attacks on kids so young they can only be bewildered by the unsettling pitch of those hysterical voices. And yet, this seemed to be the norm on the soccer fields. Astonished, I wandered through the other games being played and I heard this hideous ritual repeated untold times. And nobody seemed to mind.
Somebody please explain this to me. In Fort Wayne, a city which prides itself on having a collectively-agreed upon code of public behavior--I once saw a young mother crack her infant in the face on Calhoun Street, and before I could respond, an elderly man marched up to her and told her if she did it again, he'd call the police--and yet, when it comes to sporting events with our children, anything goes. I've heard arguments from coaches and parents who claim they're merely trying to teach discipline and hard work, but I'm convinced they are willingly deceiving themselves. The whole concept of sportsmanship has been so violently disabused by Type-A coaches and live-through-their-kids parents that I'm starting to wonder if organized sports have any benefit at all for children.
This is heretical thought in Fort Wayne, I recognize. Being active in sports here has always been considered not just healthy but for some odd reason morally appropriate, as if playing on the football team would make you more of a patriotic, obedient, God-fearing Christian. This seems incomprehensible to me, for many of the qualities needed to succeed in football--violence, one-dimensional obsession, the capacity to exploit weakness--are antithetical to Christian theology. Yet winning in football (or any sport) has become surprisingly linked with spiritual and religious beliefs. In 2005, the late Jerry Falwell fired Liberty University's football coach Ken Karcher not because he was embroiled in a sex scandal, or because he cheated, or because his players were running wild. Nope, he got fired because Liberty went 1-10 in 2005. Falwell conceded that Karcher was a good man who was concerned with the moral character of his football players, but, well, that wasn't the most important thing. "I'm 72," he said at the time. "I don't have much time to get the football program in the Top 20." As always, Falwell took the high road. It must be reported (not with too much glee) that Falwell bought it before his football team got any better.
Forgive the blasphemy, but I hope when Falwell got to Heaven, the Lord took him aside and explained that He didn't give a damn who won the Big South football title in 2005. Further, I hope He mentioned that folks in America have gotten a little nuts about sports and what importance they have in the world. It's always tricky for me to get righteous about things like this, because, paradoxically, I am a sports fan, yet I don't know how any reasonable person can't see that modern sports obsessions have become thoroughly toxic and unhealthy for everyone. In a perfect world, sports provide a necessary diversion from the strife of day-to-day existence, but today it seems that the diversions have become the focal point and the important, day-to-day things (you know, life) gets relegated to the back burner. In America, the father of a new-born infant spends, on the average, less than one minute a day with this child. Somehow, though, that same father manages to watch twelve hours of televised sports a week. It's good to know we got the priorities straight.
In 2007, Fort Wayne was cited by Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal as the top minor-league market in the United States. This was greeted with a lot of civic pride, and the impending completion of Harrison Square proves that sports will probably occupy a central part in the city's consciousness. Still, I hope the good folks in the city remember to keep everything is perspective. I'm not ready yet to toss all of my sports related hobbies, but if I see one more psychotic soccer mom go unchallenged for shrieking down her child, I'll probably have to.