Lawyers, sports don't mix

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

There are things that should make grown-ups ashamed, and sucking every last bit of sportsmanship out of kids' games must be near the top of the list.

Or maybe not.

A judge will rule Friday in a lawsuit brought by parents of a Miami high school team beaten by a field goal in the final seconds of a state playoff game a week ago.

Seven parents from Edison High contend game officials screwed up at least twice at the end and improperly gave Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer High the opportunity and time to kick the game-winner.

So they want a judge to halt the second round of the playoffs, scheduled to kick off later Friday, and order the final quarter of that game to be played over -- at the very least.

Edison High principal Santiago Corrada filed a protest immediately after the game, even though he knew the Florida High School Activities Association would not consider it. That lack of an appeals process became the basis for the parents complaint.

''And I support them,'' he said.

His school is one of the poorest in Miami, made up mostly of Haitian immigrants. In the few years he's been there, Corrada has seen the football program go from a source of embarrassment to one of great pride. It's also become his blind spot.

''We're supposed to teach young people about the rules of fair play, about the democratic process and how, if you follow rules, things will go your way.''

Just imagine if the parents prevail in court. The future of high school sports will include at least one lawyer on each bench for each game. Every ref's decision will be subject to review until the end of time. No season at any level will ever end.

''True, it might set a precedent,'' lawyer Gordon Murray, representing the Edison High parents, said Thursday, ''but I can't speak to that.''

A Canadian parent named Michael Croteau could.

Reminding us that shame knows no national boundaries, the hockey dad sued the province of New Brunswick's amateur association for close to $300,000 because his 16-year-old son was not the league MVP last season.

Croteau asked the court to take the MVP trophy from the winner and give it to his son. He also wants the top-playmaker trophy taken from another undeserving winner and given to his son, plus a guaranteed roster spot for his son in the Canada Winter Games and compensation for his son's suffering.

But the real reason Croteau is doing all this?

''It will be an example to others,'' he told The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

Not that they needed much encouragement.

Because hockey is the only meal-ticket sport available to most Canadians, their courts have become the last resort for parents with too little sense and too much time and money invested in broken dreams.

Just days before Croteau's filing, a judge in Toronto threw out a case in which a coach and father of a 9-year-old player was accused of putting a bounty on the head of another 9-year-old player.

In the same province, a mother sued the Canadian Hockey Association to recover fees, the cost of lessons and damages for mental distress because her son was benched during a junior tournament. In Saskatchewan, the parents of a 15-year-old boy asked a court for $100,000 because he was denied a tryout with a traveling team, effectively derailing his career.

Considering how all these parents reacted to bad news, it's fortunate the mothers and fathers of the girls on Hart Lakeshore Public Academy's basketball team haven't been in touch with their lawyers -- yet.

On Tuesday, Hart was beaten 115-2 in the Michigan state playoffs and afterward, Ron Stoneman, athletic director for winning Walkerville High, said with a straight face, ''It had the potential to be really, really bad.''

What he meant was that Walkerville coach Steve Kirwin used players from both the junior varsity and freshmen teams and didn't press on defense the way his teams usually do.

At halftime, Kirwin noticed only three of his girls hadn't scored and decided they were the only ones allowed to shoot. After that, he was out of options.

''I'm not going to tell my kids to not continue to play,'' Kirwin said. ''It's not that we wanted to score a ton of points.''

Of course not.

Any lawyer could tell you that a ton would be 2,000 points and Walkerville, after all, stopped at 115.

Jim Litke is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org.



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