In one of the many videos of a fan fight that erupted during a game at the John Wall Invitational this week, a voice can be heard saying over and over as the melee is being filmed, “They gonna’ start shootin’.” Fortunately that did not happen, but at a basketball tournament in Salisbury, NC the next day it did. At least one shot was fired in a gym lobby and two youngsters were wounded. Also, two teams in the Wall tournament got into a brawl after their game ended.

What causes such behavior?  Is it poor sportsmanship? Poor coaching? Poor officiating? Poor policing? Poor parenting? Poor economics? Poor education? Or could it be that we are just poor?

The word poor is usually used in relation to money and wealth, as in “We were poor growing up,” or it is used as an adjective or adverb, as in “That was a poor performance.” However it is used, it means without or lacking, and as a reason for such behaviors this week in these two high school athletic events, I  offer that we as a culture are poor in several areas, but mostly in the area of respect.

For instance, one area where respect is needed is that for public and authority figures. Yet too many of us think little of chanting offensive words at a speaker or official during a game. Adults set the tone for such behavior and should respect their role as a model for children and youths by modeling respect for the “stripped shirts”, public office holders, coaches, and others. It seems to me that too many parents today eagerly share their negative opinions of coaches, teachers, and other authority figures with their children. Too many coaches berate officials and whine to their players concerning how a game was officiated. And some mutual respect in every classroom and practice room will improve everyone’s outlook.

Respect like so many values begins with each person, but it is not a natural value. A child must be taught respect by being respected and treasured. Also respect is another word for obedience. If I respect, then I obey. I obey because I respect—the rules, other persons, my culture, myself; it is the acceptance of personal responsibility.

However, in today’s America, too little respect is on display. We have some elected leaders who do not model respect. We have elected leaders who openly flout our laws or norms. We have elected leaders who take no or little responsibility. We have elected leaders who do not engage in civil discourse. And all of that poorness seeps down, I offer. Now, culturally it is accepted behavior to jeer ugly chants to a person I object to, or to physically attack someone I disagree with. The seepage now rest into the world of  our children and young adults.

Perhaps it is now too late for our culture to right itself. Perhaps the fights at the Wall tournament and the gunshots in Salisbury are our new normal. Perhaps, but I know that we, beginning with all adults from the lowest tiered coach to all elected officials, can and must do better. Let’s begin by being polite and showing respect to one another and watch that richness flow to our children. We need not be poor in respect.

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