Sportsmanship and self-control

Referee death should force society to face responsibility issue

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Infants have no sense of perspective and no inkling of what responsibility is. And for good reason: They don’t have any responsibilities, except to themselves, and no life experience to see the big picture.

Such things are not innate. They must be learned, and in many cases taught.

By the time they are, say, 17 – one year shy of the dawning of legal adulthood – they ought to know right from wrong. They should have some perspective about the world and their place in it, including their responsibilities to it and the people around them.

When they don’t, things can go horribly wrong. People can die.

Such is the case in the tragic death of a soccer referee in Utah who died a week after an angry 17-year-old player punched him in the head after being called for a foul.

Somewhere in that little pea brain, the youth blamed his own transgression on the adult referee who called the foul on him. Even if the foul was in error, there was hardly any cause to strike out. It was a game, in a recreational league, to boot – a place where fun, not winning, was supposed to be paramount.

Absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for his own actions. Utterly no perspective about the relative long-term importance of the foul call. He just lashes out, as if the outer world is to blame for any insult or injury he feels inside. He had not the least notion that he, and only he, was responsible for his feelings and actions.

The shocking death of referee and family man Ricardo Portillo has sent shock waves throughout the sporting world nationwide, and perhaps beyond. We will no doubt have a national dialogue, as we must, about sportsmanship and self-control – not just among players, but their parents, friends, relatives and other fans, who often act as the flash points for what amounts to adult-sized playground violence.

The discussion is sorely needed. Fans and players are often out of control, egged on by a society that quite often places too high a premium on victory, rather than ethics.

But this is not a sports story alone and sportsmanship isn’t the core issue, though it’s a key component.

Instead, the core issue is responsibility – and a growing lack of it. And it transcends sports or any other field of human endeavor.

Americans have a deep-seated sense of their rights, thanks in large part to a Constitution and Bill of Rights that spell them out. What we frequently fail to grasp is the accompanying responsibilities of a free people and a civil society.

Again, an understanding of our responsibilities to each other and to life is not automatic. It must be learned.

While we’re talking about sportsmanship, let us also discuss the extent to which American society – families, schools, churches and more – is teaching responsibility.

An important, if heartbreaking and tragically belated, lesson must be learned from the death of Ricardo Portillo.

First, there must be accountability. The youth, initially held for aggravated assault, must now be tried for homicide.

His story should be a cautionary tale told far beyond the fields of play. And it should be the catalyst for a national dialogue not just on sportsmanship, but the broader issue of man’s responsibility to man.

Nothing could be a better tribute to Ricardo Portillo.

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Riverman1 05/07/13 - 05:12 am
Just don't interfere with the

Just don't interfere with the baseball theater of arguing with umpires.

myfather15 05/07/13 - 05:32 am
"By the time they are, say,

"By the time they are, say, 17 – one year shy of the dawning of legal adulthood – they ought to know right from wrong."

Well, you certainly lost most LP's with this statement. One; because certainly they espouse right and wrong is relative to the individual and there isn't a clear difference between the two.

Two: Because they are sitting at their computers right now saying "Ought? What is Ought?"

myfather15 05/07/13 - 05:43 am
The first mainstream American

The first mainstream American sport they should start with would be hockey (in my opinion). I can't even stand to watch these bafoons on Sportscenter hightlights. They skate around, crashing like crazy into each other; seeing who can knock the most teeth out. They are ALLOWED to fight for a period of time before anyone will step in.

Some of them even begin the game with a good fight. As soon as they skate onto the ice, a couple players will throw the gloves out and go at it because of something that happened the last time they played. So, they begin this game with bloodying each other up a bit; and it's all cool.

One of the problems is ESPN is a LP cesspool. They've fired numerous people for insensitive remarks. They claim to be champions of diversity (which I believe is an old wooden ship). Even firing a guy for using the term "Chink in the armor" when talking about an oriental player (Jeremy Lin) in the NBA and one of this weaknesses. Numerous past video of ESPN's own contributors showed the term "Chink in the armor" had been used many times. BUT, not towards a oriental player, Ooooh my!!

All this but they STILL refuse to stop showing EVERY fight they have in the NHL? I watch Sportscenter every single day to catch up with my sports. ESPN (The Champions of diversity and political correctness) seems to think it's perfectly OK to show guys absolutely beating the crap out of each other, with blood all over the ICE; but can't allow someone to use the term "Chink in the Armor". Wow, don't you love LP's?

Bulldog 05/07/13 - 08:40 am
Well said!

Excellent observation! Parents are often the primary problem, but a huge number of youth coaches don't have clue about real sportsmanship. A large percentage seem to think that they are coaching in the NFL...

Sweet son
Sweet son 05/07/13 - 12:57 pm
Great Opinion Article AC!

A lot of our youth today have not been taught that actions have consequences! As Riverman noted all of us older folks want to be able to still argue with the Umpire but we want to do it with respect for his/her position of authority on the field. It is just beyond belief that a 17 year old was taught or not taught to recognize the official's charged responsibility for a game. It is also beyond belief that the 17 year old would take out his frustrations against the referee in the manner that he did. It is obvious that the kid had no respect for the referee and was not smart enough to know that he would be responsible for his violent actions. I hope he is prosecuted according to the max limits as set by law and that his sentence will include anger management classes. Successful completion of the classes should lead to mentoring young soccer players in proper game etiquette.

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