By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Zopf: Fans not the only ones who can get carried away
Placeholder Image
There comes a point in every sports fan’s life when you realize that somehow we’ve forgotten what sports are all about.

You realize that winning trumps everything. It’s more important than being a good parent. It’s more important than being a positive role model. And it’s more important than being a decent human being.

My breaking point came last week while attending a local high school soccer game between two of the best teams in Region 7-AAA. Yet, while I thought I was there to cover a game with playoff implications, it turned out that I apparently ended up on the set of “West Side Story”.

On one side of this soccer field you had the Jets, a group that didn’t contain a single player of Hispanic descent and played the game as if they had been sent to camp after camp after camp with the goal of honing their skills.

On the other side you had the Sharks, a rag-tag group of Latino players that probably could never afford to get special training, but played the game the way they knew how: with speed, physicality, and  — even they’ll admit this — a little acting.

All of this is perfectly normal when it comes to high school soccer because of demographics, but what’s not normal is the type of attitude that came from one side, the Jets.

(Note: I’m referring to both teams as the Jets and Sharks so I don’t single out a certain fan base or group of high school athletes. Now that that’s cleared up, let me set the scene for you.)

From the opening kickoff, any casual spectator could see that in terms of size and tactical ability, the Jets were the superior team. They passed the ball with extreme precision, used their drastic height advantage to win every ball, and eventually score the game’s first goal.

They ran over, around and past the majority of the Sharks, and in order to gain some sort of competitive advantage, the Sharks decided to play up their acting ability and draw some fouls.

This did not sit well with Jet fans.

“You’re the worst ref I have ever seen in my life,” one fan screamed.

A typical cry at any soccer game, which was trumped by several others, including this one that stopped the game.
“I bet you’re mother’s real proud of you.”

Excuse me?

Did that really come out of an adult’s mouth at a high school soccer game?

It did, and it was nothing compared to the actions on the soccer field.

After that fan was ejected, and rightfully so, I decided to stand on the sidelines for the remaining part of the game, which at the time was tied late in the second half.

From the ground, the game looked the same. Both teams were playing their hearts out and battling for every possession. They both played physical and aggressive, with some fouls being called and others not. They pushed, they held jerseys, they played soccer.

But as the game continued, the frustration from the Jets was on display. The look in the players’ eyes said it all: “I can’t believe I spent the past 17 years of my life training and now I’m getting beat by a group of kids that are pretty much playing street soccer. And to make it worse, they’re Latinos.”

Don’t believe that’s what they were thinking? Well, listen to what one player said when the officials gathered the captains from each team to discuss the physical style of play prior to the start of overtime.

“You can’t speak Spanish,” he said to a Shark while looking at the official, who also spoke the language. “This guy’s speaking a foreign language, you can’t let him do that!”

That’s when I about lost it.

Telling a Spanish-speaking player that he can’t speak his native language to an official who also speaks that language so there is no confusion with the purpose of the meeting is just plain ignorant.

It’s one thing to be frustrated with how the game is being called and the possible outcome, but to say something downright racist has no place in sports. This player — and I can’t believe he was a captain — should have been thrown out of the game like the ignorant parent who verbally abused the official. But he wasn’t.

And I guess that’s a good thing, because he got to stick around to witness the Jets lose in a shootout.

Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. Contact him at
Regional events