Joe Davidson

Best part of this time of season: the games. The worst: boorish parental behavior

McClatchy upsets Sacramento in NorCal Division I playoffs

Number eight McClatchy High School upsets number one Sacramento High School during the girls Division I quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.
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Number eight McClatchy High School upsets number one Sacramento High School during the girls Division I quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.

People arrive at games angry, ready to unleash.

As the high school basketball playoff action starts to heat up, we wonder: why not cool it?

A good many fans filed into Golden 1 Center on Feb. 22 and 23 as if they marched in to do community service. Or to endure a tax audit, or a root canal with rusty pliers. Or all of the above.

The Sac-Joaquin Section girls and boys basketball playoffs at such a fun and fancy venue should have been reason enough to exhale and soak in the atmosphere and good hoops. Why not recognize perspective?

This is the only section in the country that hosts such events at an NBA arena, and the players over 12 championship games spanning six divisions were largely in good spirits at the opportunity and memory of a lifetime.

And those players generally behaved like champions. They performed with poise and calm amid the pressure of the game clock, of winning, and of the chaos brewing in the stands.

Opinion

Fans, mostly parents, were on display over two days at the arena, easy to spot. They were the ones gesturing and fuming – not all of them, but it only takes a handful to give off such a bad look – and it happens at just about every venue, large and small.

This is not a new issue. Boorish behavior has been the ugly underbelly of prep sports throughout my 30 years at The Bee, and it becomes more pronounced this time of season when the games matter the most.

At Golden 1, scores of grumps bemoaned and berated and belittled. They complained about the seedings. They complained about the opponents (how can he be eligible? I just hate his body language!). They complained about start times. They complained about the travel needed to get there. And the parking, and ticket prices, and hot dog prices.

And, of course, the officials. Especially the officials, a chorus of conspiracy discussion of how how that referee is over his head and is biased, or that one doesn’t call it both ways, or how they are all, “cheating us out of a championship.”

Good grief, people. Really? Grab a whistle, pull on a striped shirt, stretch and hydrate a bit, and then give it a go. Or sit there and say nothing.

Spectators – students, alums, everyone – often look at referees as evil and corrupt. Adult behavior has led to the stark decline in referee participation numbers.

I will receive a chorus of boos on this one, but the officiating this season for prep games has been fine, and at Golden 1 Center, it was often much better than that. It was fair and balanced. They called it both ways. There were no “make-up” calls. Referees didn’t care who won.

A funny scene played out during the Division I boys championship game between Sheldon and Modesto Christian when the ball got stuck near the top of the backboard. Dave Cooley – as good of a referee as this area has ever experienced – faked a jump to remove it. He doesn’t have those sorts of hops. He finally dislodged the ball by tossing another one at it and the arena filled with cheers.

It was surely the first time in history a basketball referee was hailed as something of a hero. And that’s our point here. Roll with it. It’s a game, for the kids, for the schools, for the towns they represent.

Taking everything so personal comes across as narrow minded and selfish. Fans should take a cue from the kids and behave accordingly.

And the region needs more role-model coaches such as Scott Tedmon of Sacramento Adventist Academy. His Division V boys team lost in a semifinal and didn’t get to Golden 1, but Tedmon still took players to the arena for a peek at the action.

Tedmon is a superior court judge. He deals every day in fairness, of hardship and anguish, of what’s right and wrong, so he has perspective.

“We’re here because it’s fun to be here,” Tedmon said, all grins, two players at his side.

Kudos to you, coach.

On Thursday in Oak Park, a girls CIF Northern California Division I game went down to the wire between decades-long rivals Sacramento and McClatchy. The players competed better and harder than some of the fans behaved. But when it was over, spectators from the losing Sacramento High side took a moment to congratulate the winners.

The hugs and high fives were genuine. Ah, sportsmanship and civility. It does blend beautifully in a setting of education.

Days earlier at Golden 1 Center, several adults from Argonaut in their Mustangs green, white and gold were nonstop in their disgust and discord, standing, pointing and verbally ripping on referees throughout, including this tired line, “I hope you feel better about yourself, ref! You suck!”

No. Your perspective sucks.

The anguished expressions of players looking over their shoulders at the venom spoke plenty: embarrassment.

Then something happened, refreshing and needed. Those same fans stood and cheered their Mustangs who lost a close Division V game, saying, “Congratulations, guys. You played hard. We’re proud of you.”

The CIF State basketball finals will be held at Golden 1 Center on March 8 and 9, where the only thing that matters is what the players are experiencing.

Happy campers will file in. So will the grumps, ready to cast blame for the sheer sport and spite of it.

The grumps have a choice. They can stay home and yell at their televisions or computer screens, or just appreciate the good of their team making it this far.

Or get a root canal.

Joe Davidson has covered sports for The Sacramento Bee since 1988 and is award-winning authority on high school sports, specializing in going behind the scenes. Davidson was a high school athlete in Oregon, where he participated in football and track.
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