Category: Legal

When did playing a competitive sport become bullying?

Sometimes I can’t keep my mouth shut. And since this is my blog, I have free reign to tell you what I think – even if it’s about things I generally know little about, like football and parenting.

You may have heard this week that a Texas high school football team is being investigated for “bullying” another team that it beat 91-0. Here’s the story from Fox News:

The coach of a Texas high school football team has been accused of bullying in a formal complaint after his team beat another school 91-0.

In the complaint, the dad of a player on the Western Hills High School football team claims Aledo High School football coach Tim Buchanan encouraged his players to bully their opponents by running up the score. Buchanan learned of the online complaint against him Saturday, the day after his team beat Western Hills in a 4A matchup….

In the report, which was released Tuesday, the unnamed dad lists both football teams as victims and the Aledo High School coaching staff as the offenders. The parent claims “everyone in the football stadium” was a witness to Buchanan and his staff’s “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

“We all witnessed bullying firsthand, it is not a pretty sight,” the complaint reads according to “I did not know what to say on the ride home to explain the behavior of the Aledo coaches for not easing up when the game was in hand.”

That’s right folks, one parent thinks that running up the score in high school football could be bullying. (I bet that parent is also pissed off that little Sammy didn’t get a participation trophy for being on the losing side of a 91-0 score.)

Last time I checked, parents encouraged their kids to participate in competitive sports because of the valuable lessons children can learn from a total defeat. These include: getting back on the horse after getting knocked down and learning from mistakes. Heck, even learning when to quit because you are completely outmatched and might hurt yourself is a useful lesson in cultures that value living to fight another day.

But no, this parent wants the kid to learn that even when you get the snot kicked out of you, fair-and square, you should still figure out if there’s anybody you can whine and complain to because the mean boys didn’t let you have a touchdown. What a terrible dad.

And what do you mean you didn’t know what to say on the ride home? How about, “I’m proud of your effort, despite the outcome.” How about, “Those guys are good. Did you finish your math homework?” How about, “If you want to, we can work on your throwing technique when we get home.” How about ANYTHING OTHER THAN, “You are such a fragile snowflake that the world owes you an apology for exposing your weaknesses.”

To be fair to the other coach, he did what he could to mitigate the damage. He took his starters out, put in his third-string players, and ran the clock. What else should he have done? Have his quarterback hand the football to the opposing team and then cheer them as they ran into the end-zone? I doubt many kids would like to be patronized in this manner.

In my mind, the real problem starts with over-broad anti-bullying laws. In Texas, the education code defines bullying as “engaging in … physical conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity … and that has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student … or is sufficiently severe, persistent, and pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student.”

Umm…isn’t that the very definition of football?!

If you’re gonna play the game, then you’ve got to learn how to deal with fear and intimidation in a constructive manner. Being in an abusive educational environment isn’t bullying, it’s called “high school.”

These anti-bullying laws, collectively, are creating a nation of people who can’t take a beating. (I’m not talking about actual assaults. And we already have laws that criminalize assaults and batteries.) These anti-bullying statutes raise being unhappy into a legal cause of action. Somebody made me sad, somebody called me a name, somebody beat my ass 91-0, bullies should be punished. It’s absolutely ridiculous!

The other half of the problem are the parents – the dads driving home from a football games who “don’t know what to say” to their own kids, and so they look to the system to take on the burden of parenting.

I have a niece and three nephews. Two of them already participate in competitive sports, and I anticipate the other two starting when they are old enough. They are going to be on the losing side of a punishing game, and heaven help me if I say anything on the way home besides, “Do you have a concussion? No? Thank goodness, ‘cause your mom would kill me if you did.”

Thoughts in the aftermath of the Batman shooting

Like many of you, I woke up this morning to the tragic news of the shooting in the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. The Wall Street Journal is wondering if this will lead to increased scrutiny of our gun laws. New York Mayor Bloomberg is calling on President Obama and Mitt Romney to clarify their position on gun regulations. Meanwhile conservatives are criticizing anybody who brings up gun control for trying to “politicize” the moment.

Amid all this banter, I have to wonder if we’re having the right discussion. I firmly believe that the aftermath of tragedies is a terrible time to make policy, and I don’t think any law could have stopped a madman who wanted to kill people in a movie theater. As Alfred said: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

If we’re going to ponder something today, let’s think about our culture – a culture that celebrates gun violence.

Don’t believe me? Think about the protagonist in the movie people were watching – Batman. Have you noticed that he is the only character in the movie that doesn’t use guns? (He’s a “muscular genius,” according to Phil Dunphy, but he doesn’t use firearms.) Everyone else does. In fact, the only people in our country who don’t need guns in order to get things done are comic book heroes.  Why do we believe that you need a superpower in order to live your life and defend your values without guns?

And sorry moms, this love of guns isn’t restricted to movies and video games either. The signature achievement of our current President is the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

Our gun laws are the result of our gun culture. Fighting against our lax regulations or blindly supporting the rights of gun owners seems to me to miss the point today.

I like the law

May all of the pride and good feeling in all the land be sent henceforth to Boston University School of Law, for their winning video submission in Above the Law’s annual Law Revue contest. This video was my favorite, so I’m glad to see it win, even though it bested UC Davis’s submission by a mere 47 votes.

Warning: NWS due to some profanity.

To see all the finalists’ submissions, visit Above the Law.