- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

The arrest of the youth-league football coach in Stockton, Calif., is the first step of a legal system that should slam the 36-year-old nut job as hard as he slammed the 13-year-old player late in the game Saturday.

The national fool known as Corey Petero has been charged with misdemeanor child abuse and faces up to six years in prison.

Or perhaps Petero could offer a creative plea bargain that allows one of the NFL behemoths to deliver a devastating blow to his pathetic form.

Petero’s bullying following an opponent’s late hit on his son resulted in a 20-minute brawl between the parents and players of both teams.

This incident is merely the latest in a long line of egregious outbursts involving coaches and parents of teens and tykes.

Petero’s case is not helped by the video that has received a thorough airing out across the land. It shows Petero running about 10 yards and dropping the boy with a blindside hit.

Petero did not just cross the line.

He obliterated it, as overzealous parents and coaches too often do.

They forget that it is only a game and that, win or lose, the sun is destined to rise the next morning.

If Petero is anything like all too many parents, he probably already sees his son having a star-studded high school career. He probably sees vast importance in his son’s athletic development. He probably spouts all the wrong cliches.

Sports undoubtedly can be a useful instrument in the development of a child. But in our sports-saturated, sports-obsessed culture, that usefulness has been distorted by parents with stars and dollar signs in their eyes.

Parents hire personal trainers, coaches and nutritionist with the hope that little Johnny will grow up to be the next LeBron James or Reggie Bush.

Parents are pushing their children harder and harder in a highly structured environment that leaves little time for a child to be, well, a child.

The proliferation of AAU basketball programs starts with grade-school-age children who travel from one tournament to the next, as if they are quasi-professionals.

We see this in Little League baseball. We see this in soccer. We see this in track and field.

And we see too many parents and coaches frothing at the mouth, as if the fate of the world depends on Johnny’s performance.

Petero is symptomatic of the misguided thinking lurking in youth-league sports.

You know the thinking. You know the kind.

He is the screamer. He is the coach who grabs a player by the facemask and yells, “Get tough out there.” He is the coach who drinks from the trough of Bill Parcells or Bill Cowher, not quite comprehending that they are professionals leading grown men in an activity that has millions of dollars at stake.

There is another type of fantasy football in this nation, and it is the one played out on countless youth-league football fields across the nation. It is the fantasy imposed on children by men whose football thirst never has been sated.

In an instant, the fool who left the sidelines to mete out his idea of justice on a 13-year-old half his size crystallized the pathology.

He is a bad man, all right, a real tough guy who showed that when the going gets tough, the tough get wimpy.

The mother of the child who sustained the blow thinks a prison sentence would be appropriate.

“I hope he goes to jail for what he did,” she said.

The fool has had a few days to re-evaluate the conduct that led to his arrest.

He could not have been more stupid than if he had been driving while nude, the legal challenge before an assistant coach with the Lions.

So one football coach is nuts, the other nude.

The so-called role models in the character-building business are having a bad week.

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