by Doug Ireland

Your team lost.

Let’s hope not, but face it, 50 percent of the teams in any game do, in fact, lose.

And it sucks.

Hurts, even.

Lingers, often.

Never really goes away, sometimes (don’t we Saints fans know it! &%X$ NFL officials!)
When it happens, and after you leave the stadium/gym/field, it’s so annoying that you’ve got to voice your frustration.

Absolutely understandable. Gotta vent. Maybe bounce a conspiracy theory off the friend sitting behind you, or the buddy at the grocery store, or the pal in the seat next to you at the bar.
Completely natural. No problem … unless …

You don’t know your audience. Whether it’s talking to the people next to you, or the guy at the bar, or the friend after church, OR …

You feel compelled to share your negative vibe on Facebook, Twitter, whatever, please, please, consider this:

As much as it bothers you, it bothers those players, coaches and their families more. Even if you don’t realize it.

And it wounds them immeasurably to hear or read what dummies/bums/loafers/goats you think they were, or are.

More so, really, it’s the families. The spouses, significant others, grandparents, and especially, the children or siblings, who bear the brunt of the venom.

I’ve seen the collateral damage again, and again, and again, not only during (and now, after) my 30 years as the sports information director at Northwestern, but when I was writing for the Town Talk (which used to have, gasp, more than one sportswriter) and the Natchitoches Times and the Shreveport Times and the Daily Iberian in New Iberia, and working at USL (that WAS back in the day, huh?).

As a sports scribe for old-school newspapers, I wrote columns criticizing coaches, and players (not high school kids or younger, though). Some challenged me. A couple threatened me (including a future Pro Bowler). But I tried never to let it get personal – my criticism, or how I handled their reactions. In fact, since, I’ve spent more than a little cordial time around some of those folks.
Because, I believe, I never said mean, spiteful things. I didn’t write that they were idiots or slackers. Criticism is not necessarily a personal insult.

Case in point: one of the more noble couples I’ll ever know, A.L. and Sarah Williams. He was football coach at NSU when I was editor of the student newspaper, the Current Sauce. By 1979, which ended with a 3-6 record, there was a lot of discontent about Coach Williams’ guidance. I wrote an editorial that called for his dismissal.

Never said he was a bad person, or foolish. I suppose that, and his innate goodness, helped him treat me professionally, and a little awkwardly, in the next three years while he was still coach. I am sure it hurt his wife and daughters much more.

Mrs. Williams died last month, after enduring brain cancer. She and A.L. were as adoring a couple as you could imagine for 61 years of marriage. Long ago, they overcame their frustration with me and we had a pleasant relationship over the last quarter-century.

That took a lot of class on their part. They had plenty to spare.

Their grace is a great example for all. Next time you’re ticked at that team, that coach, that player, that decision, try to remember that the frustration you vent might sear the heart and soul of somebody near, who is dear to that team, that coach, that player.

Know your audience, please. Coach’s wife and kids, player’s family and girl or boyfriend, they read Facebook and Twitter and such (and if they don’t, somebody will tell them). They may be two rows behind you in the stands, in the line at the concession stand, or walking to their car next to yours afterward.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Even if you say nothing, THAT sucks, to be hurting like they are after a bad play or a painful loss.

Don’t pile on, if you can help it. And you can help it.

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