A year and a half after Thomas Junta pummeled Michael Costin to death in the most unfortunate example of rink rage, the 270-pound truck driver has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. As his case reaches the penalty phase, his friends and family are already lining up to tell the world -- and the judge -- what a heckuva fine guy Junta really is.
Who's kidding whom?
The fight took place after a kids' hockey practice in front of both men's children. To argue that Junta's deadly rage should somehow be excused because he had to defend himself against the 160-pound Costin blames the victim for the crime against him.
If the judge allows himself to be swayed by the emotion of Junta's supporters, he is, in effect, sanctioning the behavior of any parent who cannot contain his -- or her -- temper and takes violent action because of it.
Fred Engh, president of the National Association for Youth Sports, said that despite hope that this case would have caused parents to think better of aggressive behavior during their children's games, the number of incidents has not abated.
Violent parents: Last year, NAYS officials said, a Sarasota father was arrested after storming the field and punching the referee during his son's flag football game. Other incidents involving bad parental sportsmanship have included a brawl involving approximately 30 adults following a youth soccer tournament in Los Angeles; two Salt Lake City women allegedly beating a woman unconscious after a youth baseball game; and a Wisconsin father accused of hitting a coach's 10-year-old son during practice.
NAYS points out that while "teachers who demean, ridicule or embarrass children would not be tolerated, ... volunteer coaches who exhibit the same type of behavior at a practice or game are ignored and [their actions] simply considered a part of the whole youth sports experience."
Youth sports organizations around the country are adopting NAYS action plan -- & quot;Time Out! For Better Sports for Kids. & quot; The plan calls for a no-tolerance policy for disruptive behavior of parents, coaches and referees at all games and practices and requires all parents and children to attend a mandatory class on good sportsmanship and appropriate behavior and agree to follow the rules. Otherwise, the child can't play.
Parents must take the responsibility for remembering that youth sports are supposed to be fun, not a matter of life and death.