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Open Mike: Reality check needed for unruly fans

It should go without saying but every once in a while we need a reminder, evident by a few obscene happenings at and following sporting events in recent weeks.

There are certain basic rules to being a spectator at a scholastic sporting event. In fact, a code of conduct for fans is read aloud before many athletic events in Western New York.

Yet there are still those fans, whether family or friends, at these events that are making themselves part of the sporting event with their embarrassing actions.

Over the weekend at the St. Francis Prep Tournament played at Leisure Rinks on the border of West Seneca and Orchard Park, a coach was assaulted after a night game Saturday (Jan. 4) by a player’s father, who was unhappy with his teenage son’s benching during the game, according to Orchard Park police.

Officers from both the O.P. and West Seneca police departments responded to a 911 call to the rink on Weiss Street, where they arrested Michael Schaefer of Buffalo and charged him with third-degree assault. It was reported that the coach suffered a shoulder injury and was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

These actions bring new and scary meaning to the term “Soccer Mom.”

This “Hockey Dad” went way above and beyond the verbal abuse geared toward referees, coaches and players sometimes associated with obsessive parents of athletes.

This wasn’t just an unruly fan; this was one with intent to turn this disagreement into a physical altercation.

I won’t feign like I know the emotions that go through a parent when watching their child play a sport and see a call by an official or coach not go their child’s or team’s way. But that doesn’t change the fact that these are only games. These moments won’t make or break your child.

They’re intended to build their character, whether it’s through a negative or positive experience. Life goes on after the game.

Parents should reflect for a moment on this incident. There is a need to take a step back, get a hold of some clarity, and think before you act.

If there is a moment of frustration or disappointment that affects their child or team during an athletic event, take a moment to let the boiling feeling reach just a simmer. Then if it’s still something you feel is worthy of a discussion, whether it is with a coach or athletic director, by all means do it in a rational manner.

These family members, who fly off the handle, give fans a bad name and are a terrible example. And there are so many adults who go to games just to enjoy and cherish the experience of watching their child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor compete.

Save the embarrassment for the athlete, family and school. Taking the actions Schaeffer decided on after the game proved nothing except making him look like a crazed parent, who’s now got lawyer fees and court appearances ahead of him. If officials and lawmakers act wisely, that should also include a ban from watching his son play in a similar arena.

Was the aftermath really worth the point that he attempted to prove? In the moment, these emotions may not be easy to contain but to do so, will pay dividends in the end.

Also, before the holiday break, a North Tonawanda student attending one of his school’s basketball games against Kenmore West was upset with an opponent’s player from the game and made a racially-charged and threatening remark intended for him on Twitter.

According to our reporter, Dave Ricci, who spoke with the victim’s brother, this N.T. student was suspended from school for five days.

But the brother also said the family was unsatisfied with the punishment and disturbed with the student’s actions.

While this case speaks to a bigger societal issue, unfortunately, these types of actions are not a total surprise to see from a young fan.

Just look at some of the actions of the adults from whom they’re learning.

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