The bleachers made me do it.

The folding armchair, the koozie, the battery-powered fan, the vuvuzela…these are inventions enjoyed and appreciated by sports fans round the globe. Okay, maybe “enjoy” is too strong a word for the vuvuzela, but you have to admit, as far as noisemakers go, it blows the cowbell out of the stadium.

GTGrandstandsBleachersHeroThe point is, I have no problem with the forward thinkers who created those things. What I want to know is, who came up with bleachers, and why? Could there be a more uncomfortable way to sit through a sporting event? And when it’s crowded and you actually have to sit on that little number glued to the seat (which is, I realize, the point of bleachers…cheaply seating the masses), it’s even worse. I looked it up – they calculate just 18 inches per seat space. Think economy class airline seat, minus the backrest, cushion, and armrest. Add sweaty people who think their kid should be playing more than yours. In the words of Phil Robertson, “Happy, happy, happy.”

Our kids have played, collectively, somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 seasons of bleacher-related sports, so I’m something of an expert on the issue of bleacher booty.

I just think that it might help ease tensions among parent fans somewhat if they were a bit more comfortable during their children’s sporting events. You’ve been there; you know. People say and do things during their kids’ games they would likely never say and do in other social settings. Maybe even you do. And how convenient – it’s list Wednesday, so let’s examine the facts.

Crazy Things Parent Spectators Tend to Do While Sitting in Bleachers…

Shout angrily and/or mockingly at uniformed officials. Sure, he got that shirt out of somebody’s gym bag, but he’s still a paid authority. I blame it on the bleachers. Why else would we publicly berate someone’s job performance? Ex: “Hey, ref, I found your cell phone. You have 8 missed calls!” At least it was clever.

Find enjoyment over the misfortune and inability of small children. Here’s the situation. The score is 10-1 and your team is ahead. Your team’s pitcher has been mowing them down all day. There are 2 outs, and no one is on base. Little number 7 is up to bat for the other team, and he hasn’t gotten a hit all season. He also has a speech impediment and one leg is a little bit longer than the other so he walks with a limp. He watches the first 2 pitches go right across the middle of the plate, and then swings badly at the third and strikes out. You, along with everyone else on your side of the fence, clap and cheer. In your defense, you didn’t know about his hit-less season, speech impediment, or uneven gait. You’re just happy he struck out so you could get up off those bleachers, because you forgot to bring the folding armchair.

Offer monetary rewards to our children. Ex. “For every shot you take in the basketball game, I’ll give you a dollar.” Never mind that his teammates are wide open, your kid is jacking up shots like Kobe Bryant. Only he’s not making them. He doesn’t even see the basket. All he sees is Modern Warfare 17, which he plans to buy at GameStop on the way home. Those bleachers may have been uncomfortable, but, hey, you got your money’s worth, Mr. Freakonomics.

Yell at your children in public. Suddenly, when kids step on the field, court, rink, or whatever other platform for athletic competition there is, parental expectations often rise to ridiculous levels. Ex: “JAKE, ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE? THAT WAS A TERRIBLE THROW! GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME, SON!” It’s because we never make mistakes. Or, it’s because those bleachers are so dern hard and there’s nothing for you to rest your back on. It seems like the natural forward lean would have an adverse effect on one’s ability to keep his or her irrational yelling in check. I’m just saying.

Criticize a person’s inability to mold average child athletes into champions. When it comes to sports, everybody who watches MLB on television, or who played intramural flag football one semester in college, is an expert. It doesn’t matter that a team might not have the same skill-set as their opponents, and their parents yell at them even more than you do. If your kid’s coach doesn’t win, he’s not doing it right, and you know how to fix it. Ex: person in row 5, seat 14 says to person in row 6, seat 17 (but loud enough for everyone in rows 3-8 to hear it) “That’s just bad coaching. I don’t know why Bobby isn’t playing more. He’s got a great arm. And if we ran the nickel instead of the dime? Ballgame. I think I’ll shoot coach an email later.” That’s a great idea, because that coach probably hasn’t considered any of those things, and he will take every word into consideration. Or, he will roll his eyes and spend about 7 seconds deciding how to best placate you. One of the two.

Give priority to, and pour irrational amounts of time, money, and effort into something that lots of kids resent. Ex: “I have club volleyball 4 nights a week and tournaments every weekend. How old am I? 14.” I admit it, I can’t seem to find a way to blame the bleachers on this one. And I guess that kills my thesis.

But I do know for sure that bleachers are uncomfortable and parent spectators often act like crazy people. Why do you think we do it?


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Tandy Adams

My husband is a coach so I blame the bleachers for outbursts such as “You don’t like the coaching? Then by all means go get your degree and take a job that has outrageous hours and pays practically nothing while leaving your spouse as a single parent 9 months out of the year, not to mention having to put up with teenagers everyday and worse their know-it-all parents like you.” Ok…so I haven’t actually said that out loud, but I’ve wanted too.

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