“Say what you mean; mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.”
We’ve all experienced it: a fan who verbally abuses an umpire, a coach who goes a little too far arguing a call, a player or an entire team who resorts to trash talk. We’ve witnessed officials who communicate sarcastically, people with win-at-all-cost attitudes and student athletes who attend games just to harass the opposing team. What is it about the sports arena that can bring out the worst in so many of us?
Some will blame our competitive natures, while others will say that it’s just part of the game. Most have come to accept and even expect this type of negativity when heading out to catch a ball game. We are only human after all, right? And who are we really hurting anyway?
We already know the answer, if we are honest with ourselves. Everyone suffers within a system where integrity is not a priority. We see this in places where manipulating schedules or stacking teams in youth leagues to gain an advantage is a common practice. We observe this in situations where coaches are overly concerned with finding loopholes to disqualify a player from the opposing team who they deem a threat. We cringe while watching coaches/parents make every game all about getting the win versus player development. While issues like these are harder to tackle and take a small village to right, there is something simple we can do which would instantly make our parks a better place for everyone. This is not to say it’s an easy thing, but definitely simple, especially if our minds have decided to make raising the current bar on ballpark etiquette a priority.
“Say what you mean; mean what you say, but don’t say it mean.” This simple phrase, by an unknown author, conveys the importance of effective communication and the key to ballpark etiquette. We should still stand up for our players when a bad call is made against them by an umpire. They can take it....and get paid to do so. We just don’t have to say it mean. We should defend our positions, if the need arises, when we see practices that are unfair or that compromise fair play. We just don’t have to say it mean. We should educate our players and dugouts and voice concerns when trash talk happens. We just don’t have to say it mean.
This simple shift in conscious communication will require us to control our tone of voice and speak respectfully. If we can hold ourselves accountable with these basic principles, we will raise the etiquette bar resulting in a place, where it’s all about the kids and the lessons they can learn from being surrounded by adults who walk in integrity. It’s a very elementary social skill which we seem to forget at the ballpark. Just be nice. Be courteous. And don’t say it mean.