By Mike McCombs
When Battery Creek beat Union County last Monday in the 3A softball championship series, I knew the Dolphins would have a chance to win the title at home on Wednesday, so I brushed away any thoughts of seeing John Cusack in Savannah and committed to watch a hometown team try to win its first crown.
I wasn’t doing any work for The Island News as our sports guy and former editor, Justin Jarrett, had that covered. But as a favor to my friend Jed Blackwell of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, I promised to send him something short from a Union County perspective after the game but before a quite early deadline.
During the course of the game, I spent some time on the Yellow Jackets’ side because there was no where else from which I could see the action.
Over those couple innings, I became aware that a significant portion of the Union County crowd was quite unhappy. Not in a “we’re losing, let’s rally” kind of way. But in a mean-spirited kind of way.
I heard things that should never be uttered at a sporting event where kids are involved, if at all.
I made an effort to let it ride, block it out. Something at which I’m not good.
Once BC took the lead in the fourth inning, it got worse. And of course, when the Dolphins won, it was nasty.
After the Union County players had received their runner-up medals and trophy, I moved to their side on the field to get quotes from head coach Tommy Petty. I stood on the field next to their dugout, and directly in front of a large group of Yellow Jackets fans gathered at the fence.
Not just fans, but parents.
As the Battery Creek players, coaches and administrators were introduced, the ugliest comments came from the Union County gallery.
As assistant principal Gil Sanchez was introduced, one fan uttered, “Sanchez, Ortiz, Cortez, they’re all the same.”
It wasn’t the ugliest thing said, but it’s the one I’ll repeat. Things about people’s ethnicity.
As Petty gathered his team in the right field grass and took turns with assistant coaches telling his players how proud they were of them, the team’s fans and parents were doing anything but making their daughters proud.
It didn’t seem to matter an outsider was standing feet away, hearing things.
In the end, I don’t mean to crucify Union County. I understand this is a small number of people and not necessarily representative of a big community.
But these parents aren’t setting any sort of example for their kids. And this is one of dozens of examples we see every day.
This will be behavior they will learn. Some will go on to repeat their elders’ mistakes instead of getting a chance to make their own.
I’m not sure why this has become the norm. Why it’s accepted. In some cases, why it’s expected.
These girls on both teams worked hard to get there Wednesday night. Not just this year, but all of their lives.
For some it was the last organized sporting event of their lives. It’s a day they will remember until they can’t remember.
The Union County girls deserved better. The Battery Creek girls did, too.
Mike McCombs is the editor of The Island News