Even after seeing his hero "Pee Wee" put his arms around Jackie, the boy looked at his father and began spewing the same spiteful names, in the same angry tone. What a stunning moment!
The next evening I attended the Real Salt Lake soccer match versus Chicago at Rio Tinto Stadium. As a season ticket holder I cherish attending these games with my family and friends.
Before the match there was a somber tribute to Ricardo Portillo, the soccer referee who was struck in the head by a player and later died from the blow. All of us search for a reason why this could happen. Also, there were wristbands and T-shirts offered before the game in support of his family proclaiming: "LovetheRefs.org," a sentimental but naive request for sure.
As the crowd and I grew frustrated watching RSL play down to the level of their eighth-place opponents, I began listening to a young girl, talking with her dad, seated in the row behind my right shoulder.
This girl was obviously a soccer player, making comments such as "passing to space" and "playing out of pressure." She was excited and thrilled to be watching her heroes: Beckerman, Rimando, Findley.
During the course of the game there were several calls made by the officials that were not to the crowd's liking. Boos and shouts filled the arena, both common and not unexpected. It's OK to disagree with a call; we all have our own opinions, right?
At the next call that went against Real, however, the crowd got personal: "Are you blind, ref?" "What game are you watching?" "Your own mother doesn't even like you!" This last one was yelled by a fan two or three rows above us, with several people laughing in agreement.
Then, to my astonishment, her dad turned to that young girl and said, "We all ought to get in a line and kick the referee!"
"Why, daddy?" she asked.
"Because he's a bozo!" he replied.
Really? You just advocated to your young daughter that physical violence toward another person is OK because you disagree with that person's opinion.
To all those looking for a reason rather than an excuse for Portillo's tragedy, I think I just found one.
Todd Hyer is a retired firefighter/paramedic and a soccer referee at all levels for more than 31 years.