AFTER THE WHISTLE

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— Caution, children at play

I just want everyone out there to know that I blame my parents.

My parents are the reason I'm working as a sports reporter in Steamboat Springs instead of pounding baseballs out of the park in the Cactus League as a member of the Colorado Rockies baseball team.

Forget the fact that I'm just 5-foot-something and weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 165 pounds after a complete meal at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets in Las Vegas.

No, the only reason that I'm not playing major league baseball today is because my parents insisted that I have a well-rounded childhood without a lot of added pressure.

Well, there is the other little problem the complete lack of any athletic talent. But enough of that, let's get back to the point.

I often ask myself why my dad didn't force me to play more baseball before I was 18 years old.

Unfortunately my parents are the only ones who can truly answer that question. I think the real problems started when my dad figured out I could make more money as a professional golfer. But at that point, after I had been drilled in the face by a couple hundred baseballs, it was too late to switch, but I sensed the mixed emotions when I was at the plate. I was nearly 13 years old and if I had a chance at a professional sport it had to be in baseball. Just a note, by the time I turned 14, I had a job with no future at a local retail store.

As an adult I know my parents are not the only reason I'm not playing Major League Baseball or any other professional sport for that matter. The fact is that only a very small percentage of childhood dreams ever materialize in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association or the National Football League.

Yet, there seems to be a disturbing trend among some parents these days. It might be called the "Tiger Woods Father" syndrome by some of those fancy doctors out there. Symptoms include calling the local newspaper two or three times a week to complain that a sport (their kid is not in) is getting too much coverage, to complain that their kid's sport has never been covered or that their kid's name was not it the paper.

Don't mistake what I'm saying. I think our newspaper has a certain responsibility to cover high school sports and other major sporting events in the Steamboat community. I'm also not saying that parents shouldn't encourage their children, of any age, to participate in recreational sporting events. After all, sports should be fun.

But I do think there should be some limits.

As a newspaper we have made an effort to concentrate our coverage on the high school-aged athletes, no matter what sport they happen to play. There are some rare age exceptions (mainly in skiing and hockey), but for the most part there is a pretty solid line in our sports department based on age.

The reason is simple. First, we don't have the resources to cover the hundreds of sporting events that happen during the course of the year so we are forced to make choices. The other reason has to do with our responsibility to inform the public without taking the fun out of local sporting events for the children who are playing.

In other words, we don't want to place too much focus on young children who are still very impressionable.

We are always glad to hear that an 11-year-old did well on the soccer field, hockey ice or ski slope. But we don't agree that it should always make it into the newspaper in the form of a story.

The entire staff agrees that there is a difference in accomplishments based on the age of the athletes involved.

In high school there is an expectation that the athletes understand the meaning of the game they are playing, and they have the ability to handle the exposure.

This isn't always true, but it works in most cases.

We cannot, and do not, expect this same level of understanding from the younger athletes especially those we feel uncomfortable quoting without a parent handy.

I must admit that there is a certain amount of gray area when dealing with children who do well at sports. We want to recognize as many accomplishments as we can, but we also feel we have a duty to let young children enjoy their childhood without the pressure of trying to get their name, picture or words in the newspaper.

Some parents are not going to agree with me on this point I'm a dad, so I understand.

But I don't really blame my parents for the fact I'm not a Major League Baseball player and I'm glad that I played sports as a young child because it was fun.

I don't think it is fair for some local parents to rely on the newspaper to build their child's confidence or help push them to the next level.

Instead, I would encourage parents to pat their young children on the head when they reach a milestone in sports (or any other endeavor), let them know you are proud and encourage them to keep trying. I strongly believe that the people who really matter to your children are not reading about them in the newspaper they are at the game or the race and at home when the day comes to an end.

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