My 13-year-old granddaughter plays full-contact football. She’s an offensive tackle for the Mountain Conference Herriman Mustangs eighth grade team, an almost all-male team. She’s pretty good, too.
On Saturday, I got sunburned watching her play at Butterfield Park in Herriman. Her team lost, but she played hard. And that’s what mattered — to me.
To a few other spectators, whatever was going on mattered a lot more. They yelled, got red-faced, threw things and loudly insulted the referees, as if the future of the planet was at stake.
I blame myself for failing to recognize the importance of whatever was happening on the field. I am not a sports guy. Never been one. Won’t ever be one. I lack the participation gene.
For other people, it’s life or death. While I was watching my granddaughter, BYU was playing … well, I’m not sure. Judging from the comments made by guys watching their phones while they watched their kids play, it was some team sponsored by a brand of condoms.
Doesn’t matter. The only reason I was at a football game was to watch my granddaughter kick some Y chromosome butt. And have fun.
The referees blew whistles, tossed flags and made judgments that upset some of those around us. For these people, apparently it was more than just a football game.
I don’t understand that part. Yeah, it’s nice to win. It’s also great to enjoy yourself. But how do you call something a game if you lose your “spit” whenever things don’t go your way?
Adult Male No. 1 • “That’s chicken[spit], ref!”
Adult Male No. 2 • “There’s another stupid call!”
Adult Male No. 3 • “Are you blind?!”
Keep in mind that I understand shouting at other people. For example, Faith’s coach Aaron Spackman yelled at his players whenever something went wrong. Hell, he hollered at them when things went right.
That’s what coaches do. I learned that in the Army, where coaches are called “drill sergeants.” The objective of the yelling is to get you to focus, and let you know that they were serious.
For example, “Cubby! Pull yo haid out yo a-- and gimme 20!”
Translation from the original North Carolina-ese: “Kirby! Pay attention and immediately perform some pushups!”
But that’s in the line of duty and the Army, where the idea is to whip clueless former civilians into shape so they stand less of a chance of getting killed when the shooting starts.
But pitching a fit at a game — a kids’ game, no less — falls somewhere between nuts and gross immaturity.
Sometimes a vicious whisper is enough, like my wife hissing, “Robert! Sit down!” when I started to get up to remind the guy that it was just a game — until someone got his face pushed in.
See? See how easy it happens? I started to forget that it was just a game as well.
Both of these behaviors are bad examples to set for children. That’s why, in addition to coaches, the teams in this league have “team mothers,” women whose job it is to console the injured and confront the injurious.
While my wife held down her end, a team mother came over and got in the face of the guys hollering at the refs. They became huffy, but the yelling slowed considerably.
Nobody was hurt but me. I shrugged it off. The fingernail marks on the back of my neck will go away eventually.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.