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Mocking a bunch of high school kids is unbecoming

It happened again Friday, through the drama of a state tournament game, this uncanny, almost mystical way sports reveal the better — and worse — angels of our nature.

It begins with that sage known as Yogi Berra, who once said, "you can observe a lot by watching." And so here is what I observed by watching the postgame scene that followed a compelling state quarterfinal softball game between Waterford and East Haven: The kids embodied the better angels; the adults the worse.

Maybe 15 minutes after the nine-inning game ended, a Waterford player was left sobbing on the team bench. The Lancers had just lost 1-0. Her emotion was noteworthy, but her words profound.

"I just don't want to leave," she said.

And this — yes, this — is when you know you run a program and not merely coach a team. When leaving is tougher than losing. An enduring lesson of sports at their best.

Funny how despair is such a great teacher sometimes, forcing us to realize how much we truly love what we're doing and with whom we're doing it.

The tears belied the beauty of the moment. We all should be so lucky to care about something this much and to share goals and dreams with teammates and friends. The player in question probably had no idea the utter blessedness of the scene.

Sometimes — especially in Waterford — winning begets entitlement. Or a lack of appreciation for all the details that lead to even the mere opportunity. This was a reminder that sports have no script and that we are entitled to nothing.

Ah, if only we could leave the games to the kids. If we adults would simply shut up and observe a lot by watching. We could learn things.

Instead, I watched an adult insert his ego into the postgame proceedings, insistent on getting the last laugh at the expense of a bunch of kids.

Instead of looking down to record the last out on my scorecard, I made it a point to watch the East Haven kids celebrate. Chronicling the shapes and forms of raw emotion allows a better story to be told.

It was here I saw and heard East Haven assistant coach Jeff Crisafi, who in the wake of the final out, did indeed join the celebration, but not before mockingly hollering (and waving) "See ya boys! See ya boys!" to the impromptu gathering of Lancer Nation beyond the outfield fence.

I'm thinking: It was more important for an adult to mock a bunch of kids than to participate in the joy of the moment.

I'm going to type that again: It was more important for an adult to mock a bunch of kids than to participate in the joy of the moment.

Crisafi, who calls pitches and coaches third base — and appears to do quite well at both — spent much of the game curiously vexed by the student section. Early in the game, he complained to the umpire, prompting a public address announcement advising the kids to "keep it positive." Waterford athletic director Chris Landry even sent a security team member out there as a precaution.

Later in the game, two East Haven players collided trying to catch a pop up. The contact was minimal and the ball was caught. Lancer Nation razzed the players nonetheless — as student sections do. It was neither angelic nor profane. Crisafi again played the role of aggrieved victim to the umpire. Even Landry, who strikes me as a stickler for enforcing the rules, saw nothing wrong.

And so the game ended and Crisafi made the choice to loudly bid adieu to the students who were probably 200 feet away. The joy of victory wasn't enough. The last word was of more usefulness.

He wasn't done. Before addressing the team in shallow left field for a postgame state of the union, he started again on the students. Again: What was the purpose?

Thankfully, nothing happened. The students left. But given our burgeoning societal volatility, what would have happened if a few of the kids decided to climb the fence and confront Crisafi?

What, I can't ask?

Is that so farfetched anymore?

To reiterate: In high drama games, I make it a point to attentively observe the last out or the last play for journalistic reasons. Makes for good copy. Hence, I saw and heard the whole scene. Very disheartening.

I know how this will go. The East Haven parents, who did their share of razzing the student section as well, will play the victims. They'll defend their coach, assured that Waterford started it — as if that's relevant — because in their minds, the Easties wrote the sportsmanship manual.

I know what I saw. If the Waterford kids stepped over any lines, Landry made sure early in the game to fix it. It was a student section doing what student sections do. Adults are supposed to know better. They are supposed to benefit from the wisdom of their ages and life experiences. Set the better example. Stay above the fray. Not make it worse.

Quite a lot to absorb in about a 10-minute span late Friday afternoon. A Waterford player showing us why sports matter to us so much. And a coach showing us why sports have never been worse.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro


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