Friday, 31 October 2014 10:27

Violence on the Field

By Damian Fantauzzi | Sports

Recently there has been a big concern about the lack of sportsmanship in high school games and maybe it has become a local epidemic.

Two weeks ago, during the Whitehall and Rensselaer High School football game, a fight broke out on the field and both teams and coaches became involved in a brawl. I have no intentions of pointing the finger of blame, and I don’t know the whole story. To make a long story short, Whitehall was ahead 28-6 in the third quarter and the game ended there because the referees and Whitehall’s Athletic

Director Keith Redmond had safety concerns— good for them!

The New York State Police were called, and the Rensselaer fans and team were allowed to leave the field first as they were escorted by state troopers. The Whitehall fans and players went home after Rensselaer.

Another ugly occurrence, during the same week, was when

Maple Hill High School played Oppenheim-Ephratah St. Johnsville in soccer.

A player from OESJ punched a Maple Hill player during their sectional playoff game. The Maple Hill player was taken to the hospital and the OESJ player was later charged with third-degree assault. The Maple Hill player is OK.

A police spokesman said that even if there is a conviction on the misdemeanor, the possibility of jail time is most likely not going to happen. But, the police officer said it could still have a negative effect on his future.

Names have been mentioned by some of the local press. It is not my intention to do so! The player that was punched did not retaliate.

This is a minor charge but still a criminal offense and could stay on the perpetrator’s record for life. This type of thing is happening throughout the country. From football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer, mainly at the scholastic level, this is an issue that needs to be addressed, nationally.

There are stories of parents attacking opposing coaches and players, parents going after coaches and players attacking opponents. Somehow, with these events, the idea and purpose of athletics and interscholastic sports, on the field, has lost its true meaning.

The Whitehall/Rensselaer game has had a lot of media coverage. The head coach for the Railroaders (Whitehall), Justin Culligan, has been dismissed. Rensselaer’s coach accused a Whitehall assistant coach for pinning and choking one of his players, but the AD of Whitehall and Coach Culligan looked at videotape and couldn’t see anything.

Culligan said, “It got ugly quick. We saw some things that they did. They probably saw some things that we did. I’m not going to blame either side. Both sides were at fault.”

I feel that Culligan made a reasonable comment about the melee. A brief synopsis of what happened, as the pot began to boil: The game became a very rough contest during the second quarter, when a brawl nearly cleared the benches. The brawl that kindled the fire was when Whitehall’s quarterback was taken down out of bounds.

All led to a prolonged, angry exchange between players, coaches and officials before it calmed down. My confusion is my curiosity, but why is Culligan released from his position as Whitehall’s football coach? I don’t really think that the Whitehall Board of Education is at fault for voting Culligan out, but I do wonder why he was the focus of the blame and from what I heard there was no justifiable cause for his release given.

Is he solely to blame for what happened? There are always more sides to these circumstances. It was a situation that involved about 65-70 people. I wasn’t there, but looking from the outside in, how can one person be responsible for what happened? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m criticizing the decision. I’m just inquisitive with curiosity. Being a coach, with a 40-plus year history, I know that not everyone likes who you are and, or what you do. It’s the nature of the job. A coach could be a 400-plus game winner, but that doesn’t guarantee your tenure. There are many unanswered questions.

Not only as a coach, but as a former player, I’m pretty sensitive about these disciplinary situations. This is difficult, and putting the onus on one person doesn’t seem right. When I was at New Mexico Highlands University, as a basketball player, we played a game at our archrivals on their floor. A pushing match started on the court and suddenly there were hundreds of fans on the floor.

The players made it into their locker rooms to avoid getting sucked into a maelstrom with the fans.

No one was fired. Our opponent’s coach was not held responsible for what happened. How can the pinpoint of blame be placed on one person when a brawl occurs? I do know that it’s possible, but the situation that happened at Whitehall, doesn’t appear to be one person’s fault.

When I was coaching boys basketball at Saratoga, after we played an away game, our bus was stoned as we left the school. The next day I registered a complaint with our AD. No one was hurt, but someone could have been seriously hurt with the possibility of breaking glass. He called our opponent’s AD and nothing happened.

It was a group of unsupervised kids and the school had no responsibility for the incident. Or did they? We could have found out who the chaperones were and held them responsible. What is the answer? Who is to blame?

Was Justin Culligan a scapegoat? They don’t pay these guys enough money for being a lone wolf, or a target of blame, because when you’re a coach, rarely does anyone have your back!

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