Potomac News Online | Foul territory

How many people remember the final score of Saturday’s American League playoff game?

The game between two historic franchises was supposed to be a testament to all that is still good with America’s pastime. The game featured the New York Yankees, winners of 25 World Series titles, against the Boston Red Sox -?a team that hasn’t won a World Series championship since it sold star pitcher, Babe Ruth, to the Yankees in 1917.

On the mound were two of the game’s greatest pitchers. The Yanks had former Red Sox pitcher Roger Clemens, playing his final game at historic Fenway Park.

Taking the mound for the Red Sox was their ace Pedro Martinez, whose speed and accuracy has bewildered batters for a decade.

The conditions were right for a classic game of the ages. What transpired was a disturbing glimpse at what’s wrong with baseball and our sporting culture in general.

By the fourth inning of Saturday’s contest, Martinez had struck one batter with a 90 MPH fast ball and later in the inning Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez rushed the mound with bat in hand toward Clemens. Both benches cleared and the usual pushing and shoving ensued.

Those who have seen the highlights played endlessly on television know what happened next. Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer rushed toward Martinez complaining about the pitcher’s nasty tactics. Martinez responded by hurling the 72-year-old coach to the ground.

Order was restored, but toward the end of the game, two members of the Yankees roughed up a Boston groundskeeper in the bullpen. The groundskeeper says he was attacked, while the two pitchers claim he was overtly rooting for the Red Sox, acted in a disorderly manner and became confrontational when asked to leave.

Over the course of one game we saw professional athletes -?the best at their craft -?descend into the territory reserved for European soccer hooligans. And yes, there is a trickle down effect.

It’s disturbing when we read about the New England hockey dad who beats a youth coach to death in front of his players. It’s disturbing when parents and coaches take part in brawls that occur following a high school football game. We live in a society where parents are required to sign a code of conduct. It’s disturbing that such conduct is not second nature to responsible adults.

There’s even more at stake with the behavior of our professional athletes. We expect them to act professional. Yes, they do lose their tempers and yell and argue from time to time. But was Saturday’s display of irrational behavior a glimpse into how our sports are going to be conducted in the future?

We as a society cannot write this off as just an example of pros behaving badly. Kids watch their heroes behave this way on television and pretty soon they’re doing the same thing. Just as kids emulate Sammy Sosa’s batting stance, young athletes are bound to pick up the bad tendencies of today’s athletes.

We are drawn to sports through the passion often represented in the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Saturday’s game in Boston saw those two emotions hijacked and replaced by crude mob violence. It’s an unfortunate cancer that’s infiltrating too many of our sports these days.

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