Saturday, September 24, 2011


October treats us to a bounty of autumnal delights - the whiff of cooler weather to come, the possibility of wearing a sweater before Thanksgiving, the dream holiday of sweet teeth everywhere dreaded by dentists and cranky neighbors that is Halloween, and homecoming floats and touchdowns.
These fall rituals we look forward to every year can also be spooky if incivility is in the end zone or comes to the front door dressed in costume. No one likes a poor sport, or worse yet, a sore parent shrieking in delirium and pantomime from the sidelines. And your little angel may trick-or-treat as a monster, but grill it into them like tri-tip the importance of acting like a lady or gentleman when they ring the bell. After all, it really DOES ‘Manner A lot’.
By now, chances are everyone’s seen a parent or two behaving badly from the sidelines of a local football or soccer game this season. They are easy to spot. Their face is as red as Red Vines, their verbal tsunami will surely lead to a stroke if they aren’t restrained by cheerleaders. Don’t be one of those parents, unless your goal is to humiliate yourself, your child, and clear the bleachers around you in ten seconds.
There is no grace in being a sore loser or an armchair quarterback from the first row of the stands. The late, great John Wooden said, “things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out”. If only parents had to sign an agreement to that effect before watching a game. Good sportsmanship on the part of our student athletes should go hand in hand with our own better fansmanship.
Temper your expectations and lock your ego in the car’s glove compartment. Respect the coaches, the referees, their players and calls. Don’t confront them outside the locker room with physical threats. And keep it clean too. Hurling obscenities from the bleachers won’t help move the ball or change the score. Competition is healthy, getting ugly in one’s overzealousness is toxic! As easy as it is to lose ourselves and common sense in the blinding Friday night lights, unbridled enthusiasm should never include yelling instructions from the sidelines.
One wouldn’t dream of walking into the classroom to tell the instructor how to teach or scold the student for not learning better. Don’t do it from the turf! This isn’t the national championship. Don’t take it so seriously. Remember, it isn’t in the victory that we learn about ourselves, but in the losses and defeats. Emily Post wrote that if someone ‘can’t take sports with grace and good temper, then don’t go in for them’. Winners don’t gloat; Losers don’t sulk!
Fright Night, when creepy costumes and wickedly bad behavior alike come crawling out of the woodwork, shouldn’t scare homeowners into shuttering their house, cordon off their yard with crime scene tape, hide under the beds or leave town rather than endure the endless stream of manner-less monsters? This playbook is simple: be a respectful, appreciative trespasser and a kind and generous neighbor. If the lights are on, the candy bar is open for business. No costume, no candy. My cutoff is 14 and under. You may have been transported in from three zip codes away, but as cute as the toothless newborn ninja in the stroller looks, even I know she won’t be having the Snickers for breakfast. No teeth, no stash. Adults with pillow linens need not apply. If you are politely denied, don’t threaten me, swear as you walk away, or steal my Styrofoam headstones.
If you qualify, please don’t cut across the newly-seeded lawn or force your way into my entryway. We are expecting you. One knock or ring of the door bell is sufficient. If the home looks darker than the Munster Mansion on Mockingbird Lane, assume no one is home and move on. When Halloween falls on a school night, the timing has a way of taking care of itself. Either way, after 8 or 8:30, consider calling it quits. And remember those other all-important words besides trick-or-treat: thank you!
If you are the designated candy patron, save the homemade popcorn witch hats for friends or the neighbors’ kids. Greet Buzz LightYear and Woody cheerfully, even if they are part of a mob high on fructose. If you run out of loot, don’t start dolling out change, canned vegetables or leftovers. Let’s face it, this is a sweet tooth’s senior prom. It is no time to give a penny for their thoughts or cleanout the pantry! When your supply has dwindled, turn out all the exterior lights. Everyone should know that’s Halloween code for ‘do not bother’. Likewise, there is no need to answer the door in the dark to explain how sorry you are that you have nothing left to hand out.

Whichever side of the door or sideline you’re on, be civilized.

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