Sports Columns

February 8, 2014

Norman Arey: Just let the kids play

I want to tell you two stories. In Mooresville, N.C., a small community not too far from Charlotte, school officials have told football coach Hal Capps to quit leading his team in pregame or postgame prayers. Separation of church and state and all. Parents had complained.

In San Antonio, Texas, two football coaches of 8- and 9-year old teams were thrown out of the league for teaching dirty play, encouraging their players to hurt the other players and other nauseating examples of poor sportsmanship or just plain child abuse.

These two stories are different, but yet the same. They’re about adults involved with kids in sports trying to do, in their minds, what is right whether the kids like it or not.

In the first story, it’s about teaching them respect and good sportsmanship yet defying the rules. In the second story, it’s about “toughening them up” and forcing them out of childhood way, way too early. Phrases like “I don’t care if he is crying” or “I don’t care if he doesn’t get up” are frequent and delivered at a high decibel level. I’ve even heard the story of a football coach who took his player aside, showed him a spot on a helmet and said “I guarantee you if you hit him right there with your helmet, he won’t get up.”

And with national signing day just past, I guarantee you that several of the top players received hurtful and threatening emails when they didn’t pick a particular fan’s school.

Last year Robert Nkemdiche — the defensive end at Gwinnett County’s Grayson High School was rated by some as the nation’s top recruit — committed to Clemson, then signed with Ole Miss. He received 12 written death threats — and they came from grown adults involving themselves in a decision made by a 17-year-old boy. Adults need to butt out and mind their own business.

HERE AND THERE: There will be little rest for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson after winning the Super Bowl. He’ll report to spring training with the Texas Rangers later this month but also said he definitely isn’t going to play baseball professionally. ... When Denver lost the Super Bowl, its citizens managed to cope. The pornographic channel in Denver received a huge bump in traffic after the game. ... One of the Super Bowl commercials, seen only on certain local stations, was an advertisement for Scientology. ... Seattle is now avidly seeking a franchise in the NBA to come back to the city to replace the long-gone SuperSonics, who are now the Okahoma City Thunder. ... The Super Bowl wasn’t a particularly good day for the bettors in Las Vegas. With 68 percent of them taking the Broncos, they lost more than $19.7 million — the worst day for those betting in Super Bowl history. ... Las Vegas has already published the odds for next year’s Super Bowl. Seattle is the favorite at 9-2 odds, San Francisco second at 7 1/2-1 and Denver at 8-1. The Atlanta Falcons’ odds to win it all are 25-1.

QUICK KICKS: Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner, has been named a preseason All-American for the school’s baseball team. ... Some football recruits at Texas are saying that former coach Mack Brown advised them to “look around” when they last saw him. ... And a note concerning national signing day. What happens to those college caps that aren’t used when a recruit announces which school he’s choosing? They’re stolen by members of the audience after the signing, according to articles online. ... Another signing day note — Decorius Law so enjoyed the big day that he signed with three different schools — Ole Miss, Utah and Eastern Mississippi Community College ... The assistant coaches at the University of Texas all signed two-year contracts. ... Morgan Shepherd, at 72 years old, will try to qualify for the Daytona 500. ... The Jamaican bobsled team is a 50-1 long shot at the Winter Olympics. ... Of the NFL’s standing ban of marijuana, Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said this: “We’re just going to do it anyway.”

NAME GAME: Only at LSU. The Tigers got three quick letters of intent from Malachi DuPre, Tavonte Valentine and Trey Lealaimatafao. ... Eastern Michigan got a letter of intent from defensive lineman Lion King Conaway (I swear I’m not making this up). ... Damien Mama, a 6-foot-5, 360-pound offensive lineman signed with Southern Cal over Alabama and UCLA.

Norman Arey is an award-winning journalist whose column appears in The Daily Citizen on Thursday and Saturday. You can write to him at

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