espnW: Pop Warner football
"This is a football game, not a Hallmark moment."
-- coach Scott Lazo
I read these words in a New York Times report on a lopsided Pop Warner football game in Massachusetts during which five players suffered possible concussions. It's serious stuff considering what we now know -- and still don't know -- about the long-term effects of trauma on a young brain.
So I was stunned to hear Lazo's remark. He was defending his winning team against the supposition that they played outside the rules in the 52-0 win. Lazo and the coach of the opposing team, Erik Iller, were suspended for the remainder of the season and placed on probation through the 2013 season after a lengthy hearing Thursday.
First of all, I love Hallmark moments and the saccharine music that accompanies them, but this struck me as another example of a coach using something associated with women to shame men -- or boys -- into being tougher.
Former Indiana coach Bobby Knight did it by putting a tampon in a player's locker. Giants defender Osi Umenyiora wished Eagles running back LeSean McCoy a Happy Mother's Day via Twitter. McCoy responded by saying Umenyiora played football like a ballerina.
Obnoxious at any level, except that Lazo is talking to boys as young as 10, according to the Times.
Maybe Lazo didn't get the memo that he is teaching kids. Let's leave the macho crap to the pros, as if it has a place at all. I don't know Lazo personally, and he may have a lot of redeeming qualities. I am concerned, however, that this kind of attitude puts kids in danger.
Football is a great sport for teaching teamwork and pushing yourself to the physical limit. But belittling Hallmark moments shouldn't come into play at the Pop Warner level.
Which reminds me, I need to grab some tissues and go watch an afterschool special.