Bad News Boors

In the newest version of the movie The Bad News Bears, a Little League coach drinks in front of his team and passes out drunk on the practice field. Instead of a bank or supermarket, he gets a strip club to sponsor the squad. And he sleeps with one of his players’ mothers. Ugh! But as bad as the fictional Morris Buttermaker is, sadly, he does reflect what we sometimes see in parents and Little Leagues coaches—like a T-ball coach in Pennsylvania. The league required that every player play at least three innings. Since playing his worst player, an autistic eight-year-old, lessened the coach’s chances of T-ball immortality, he looked for a way to keep the kid out of the game. So, he offered one of his players $25 if he would hit the kid with a ball during warm-ups. And that’s what happened: One ball in the groin and another behind the left ear sent the unwanted player to the emergency room. The coach, I’m happy to say, now faces criminal charges and the victim and his family have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support and concern. And Oakland A’s star pitcher Barry Zito will fly the family out for a game at his expense. So, all’s well that ends well, right? Hardly. What happened in Pennsylvania is only the latest example of kids’ activities driving adults to break the law. A few years ago, a father in Massachusetts was sent to prison for killing his son’s hockey coach after practice. Some years before that, a Texas mother was convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill the girl who had beat her daughter out of a place on the eighth grade (yes, eighth grade) cheerleading squad. Less dramatic, but equally telling, virtually every youth sports league has adopted rules to govern out-of-control adults. And I’ve seen plenty of these when I have been at games watching my grandchildren compete. While these, of course, are not “Signs of the Apocalypse,” they illustrate a culture whose priorities have gone far astray. Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction at your children’s successes—I certainly do—but many parents today are living vicariously through their children and their definition of “success,” which creates problems. You see this not only on ball fields, but also on bumper-stickers: the one that brags, “My son is an honor student,” or one just sighted in California that says, “My all-star struck out your honor student.” Or the parents who brag about their kids getting into prestigious schools. Okay, I know, doing well in school and getting into a prestigious college are good, but that’s not what I mean by “success.” The “success” we ought to take satisfaction in is seeing our children live virtuously and, thus, become a credit to the people who raised them. The “good life,” as I write in my new book by that title, that we should desire for our kids isn’t defined by status, achievement, winning T-ball games, or possessions, but rather by character. As I found out the hard way, this is where true and lasting happiness, as opposed to fleeting imposters, is to be found. While this ought to be obvious, just a quick glance at the news and bumper-stickers tells us how foreign this idea has become, which leaves us hoping that our kids will reject Morris Buttermaker, whether in the film or on the kids’ playing field. And overzealous parents should take note, as well, because the example we set and what we teach our kids to aspire to really does matter.


Chuck Colson


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