No, it wasn’t a “deep fake.”
The viral video footage of a father storming out of the stands during a high school wrestling match last week and bull-rushing his son’s opponent wasn’t some digital concoction by a Russian hacker.
Barry Lee Jones of Harrisburg really did tackle a Southeast Guilford wrestler during one of the bouts between Southeast and Harrisburg Hickory Ridge in Kannapolis and had to be subdued by coaches and officials. Jones really was arrested and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.
And no, we still aren’t precisely sure why Jones snapped, but we have a good hunch.
He may have been angered after the Southeast wrestler was penalized one point for an illegal takedown of his son.
The maneuver had resulted Jones’ son landing on his head and neck, though he appeared uninjured. In fact, the Hickory Ridge wrestler had moved into position to resume the bout when his father suddenly burst onto the mat as if he were shot out of a cannon and floored the Southeast wrestler with a blind-side hit.
As the News & Record’s Joe Sirera reported, the match ended then and there, which probably was a good thing. The spectators and athletes appeared to be stunned. To expect everyone to resume business as usual, as if nothing had happened, would have been unrealistic.
As for the father’s troubling eruption, things do happen in the heat of competition. Adults can get crazy at youth sporting events.
In one especially infamous incident in Greensboro in 1999 (before the era of viral videos), an irate soccer mom punched a teenage official in the mouth, even as players, all of whom were younger than 12, were shaking hands. The mother received a 15-day suspended jail term, a $250 fine, six months’ probation and 50 hours of community service. She also was barred by the N.C. Youth Soccer Association from attending soccer games for three years.
Some years later, rising concerns about poor conduct at youth sporting events prompted the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department to require that parents view sportsmanship video. Some adults objected, including two City Council members.
As for that rampaging dad from Harrisburg, he may have lost himself in the moment. But such incidents are unacceptable and inexcusable and they must taken very seriously at every level.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association rightly condemned the man’s behavior after viewing the footage.
“It is shameful that the actions of one parent have overshadowed the excellent work being done by coaches, trainers and officials to protect the health and safety of each student-athlete while helping them to learn and grow in a safe and fun environment,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement.
“We hope that other parents will see this incident as an opportunity to evaluate their own behavior at their children’s sporting events and reflect on the type of memories they want their children to carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Tucker said.
The father did neither his son nor himself any favors.
He could have injured the Southeast wrestler. He could have sparked a free-for-all among other spectators. He probably embarrassed his son and his family.
Competing hard and sportsmanship are not mutually exclusive. Of all people, parents, coaches and faculty should model the appropriate behavior.
Which is to say, grown-ups need to behave like grown-ups.