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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
Perhaps you, like me, have been an adult whose children participated in youth sports.
And perhaps you, like me, have seen and heard parents behaving badly during games. You know what I mean:
Taunting opposing players. Yelling at coaches. Threatening refs or umpires. From the basketball court to the baseball diamond, the soccer pitch to the football field, parents often embarrass their children and other folks associated with their own team.
Rarely, though, does a parent physically attack a teenager during a game. It's shocking to even consider.
That's what Virginia Beach police and witnesses say a local man did June 9 during the North American Sand Soccer Championship. Police have charged Jordan Lee Grinnell, 38, with simple assault, a misdemeanor. The department issued a news release Monday about the case.
After the ball went out of bounds, Timothy Vickerie, 14, of Chester, and Grinnell's son - on the opposing team - were jostling each other. Witnesses say the elder Grinnell charged from the sidelines, knocked Timothy to the ground, and punched him.
The police report, citing several witnesses, said Grinnell punched Timothy at least three times in the face.
Let me repeat: The boy is 14. He was punched in the face.
His mother told The Pilot's Jane Harper that Timothy needed four stitches above his right eye and suffered a concussion and bloody lip.
This is nuts. It's a ghastly act. It's a grown man allegedly attacking a young teenager, for goodness' sake.
Sports like soccer involve physical contact, banging and jostling. It's all part of the game. Players and parents know that.
Parents shouldn't approach players except in extreme circumstances. Even then, they should try to defuse confrontation by separating the players.
Grinnell is innocent unless proven guilty. However, he will have to live with the infamy of the photo showing him in handcuffs on the Boardwalk. The Pilot and other news outlets published the photo, taken by a person at the scene.
When I tried to reach Grinnell on Monday, no one answered the phone at the number listed for him. His attorney, Eric Leckie, didn't return my calls by late Monday afternoon.
I asked the Beach Commonwealth's Attorney's Office why the incident, which sounds violent, wasn't a felony. A spokeswoman said it's still under review by police and prosecutors.
Court records and a Navy spokeswoman said Grinnell is a 17-year Navy veteran and a chief petty officer. He has no prior criminal record.
The incident is alarming, not the least because altercations between individuals connected to sports have turned fatal.
In a case that gained lots of national attention about parents taking things too far, Thomas Junta was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for beating another man to death following their sons' hockey practice in July 2000 in Reading, Mass.
In June 2014, a soccer player who was about to get a red card punched a referee in the head during a game in suburban Detroit. John Bieniewicz later died in the hospital. A judge sentenced Bassel Saad to 8-to-15 years in prison.
It's as if players, parents and other fans have forgotten what sports are supposed to be about: fun, competition, teamwork and discipline.
That's why programs like the St. Louis-based Sportsmanship Brigade were started. It's part of the St. Louis Sports Commission. The brigade calls unsportsmanlike conduct "the enemy," and its volunteers visit local youth and high school athletic contests looking for acts of good sportsmanship.
The brigade wanted to spotlight children, coaches, parents and fans in the St. Louis area "doing the right thing," Solomon Alexander, commission staffer, told me Monday.
They receive a small prize that may include a gift card or T-shirt. The brigade has awarded roughly $10,000 in prizes since 2012.
Could something like that work here? Probably.
True, we shouldn't need to award people for being good sports, for doing what they're supposed to do.
Then again, adults shouldn't attack young athletes.
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