There is no room in sports for acts like those seen at a recent game, especially at the high school level.
(Staff Photo by
Maybe sports are getting to mean too much. Friday night's football game between Landmark Christian and Our Lady of Mercy is the perfect example. What should have been a celebration of a truly special football game was instead tainted by some poor sportsmanship.
A good rivalry can be fun, but sometimes it can go too far. Bad blood between the schools boiled over and did not stay between the painted lines. There was a physical football game with plenty of jawing on both sides. Unfortunately there were also accusations of dirty play and taunting. There are certainly two sides to every story, so there weren't any angels.
If one thing can sum up a rivalry getting out of hand, though, it is the photo of a Landmark player immediately after the winning touchdown making a vulgar gesture towards the Mercy team and crowd. It certainly does not seem like winning the right way.
Landmark said the offending player had been taunted earlier in the game by Mercy after he was injured, but it certainly does not make it right.
To their credit, Landmark agrees that it is not right. Both Wayne Brantley, Landmark's head coach and athletic director, and Leanne Messer, Landmark's high school principal, called the action inexcusable and disgusting.
It was by a kid who is normally a shining example, but he let the moment get the best of him. Both Brantley and Messer were shocked by his actions. They don't intend to let him forget how disgusted they were by what he did.
The gesture wasn't all. There was at least one flag for blocking after the whistle, after which the coach pulled the offending Landmark player from the game. In overtime another of their players was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for saying something inappropriate to a Mercy player. Coach Brantley assured that player is receiving a severe punishment, perhaps more than you would think he even deserves.
Landmark promises that they will not tolerate unacceptable behavior from their players.
Tempers got heated between the teams, and even the stadium couldn't contain them. In the parking lot after the game, things started turning ugly again. One side says a Landmark player was taunting from the bus. The other side says a mass of Mercy people started things. Either way, a Fayette County deputy and the coaches had to get involved to split the sides up and send the bus on its way.
Perhaps it's more disappointing to see things get so out of hand when the teams involved are from religious schools. It's a bit jarring to see a player from a Christian school grab his crotch in defiance.
What makes it even worse is that these players are supposed to be role models to little kids. There were even more than usual in attendance on this night. At halftime there was a game between Our Lady of Mercy's youth football teams. Those kids hung around to watch their gridiron heroes play. And they saw one of them make a fool of himself. Hopefully he realizes what a poor example he set.
Unfortunately, he hasn't had a great example set for him either. We've seen pro players taunting players knocked out cold or stomping on opponents’ faces. Hurting others is almost celebrated.
It's not just a game anymore. The fans treat it like life and death. We have fans throwing bricks through windows or, in the most recent installment, UGA supporters egged and toilet papered their quarterback's house after a bad game.
Kids today don't have a shot. They see poor sports in the stands and on the fields, and that will be all they know. They're bound to imitate their heroes. I dread seeing the state of sports in a few years at this rate.
Maybe we can try and start here. Landmark's Brantley wants to get with Mercy's coaching staff and bridge the gap. Maybe if the players see the coaches can respect each other and work together they can ease some of the tensions. Maybe they'll remember that this isn't life or death. Maybe we'll try and remember this is just a game.