Houston Chronicle – Jan 27, 2002 – Little League is not the World Series. In fact, the players are barely old enough to cross the street unattended. The “it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game” philosophy is gone.

We speak from experience: We are Little League parents ourselves. Deep down inside, parents are hoping for the grand prize – a win. Never mind that our children have limited athletic ability. The quest toward victory clouds our judgment and good sense. We are transformed into monsters – into sports fanatics, addicted to the ill-gotten win at any cost.

All three of our children were in Little League, and we celebrated it. We never raised our voice in anger whether our kids won or lost. Many parents have found themselves in situations in which they were critical of how another parent, coach, or official was calling a game or utilizing their child’s talents. The mere suggestion that our sons should be benched for the first or last inning could push our anger level to the point of no return. In our mind, we’ve plotted our revenge against the Little League coach who we perceived as fixated on picking on our children.

In the fit of our anger, we could not see his suggestions or calls necessary in teaching our sons responsibility. We couldn’t see past our sons’ dejected expression and their obvious personal embarrassment, but we couldn’t act on our parental indignation either. We couldn’t cross the line.

The Massachusetts truck driver who was convicted of manslaughter resulting from his parental rage at a kids’ hockey game should have done the same. Evan and Sally Lowenstein Houston

More than meets the eye with Spurrier – What can we all learn from Steve Spurrier?

As a sport and performance psychologist who was in the training room regularly throughout the 1996 national championship season at the University of Florida, I have a few words to say about Spurrier. While portrayed often as an arrogant egomaniac by outsiders, insiders – the staff I worked with at Florida – liked him very much. He was mostly perceived as a relaxed and supportive leader with a streak of perfectionism and healthy confidence.

When I approached the football program in 1995 with the goal of studying the effects of sport injury on the mindset of the players, this was a taboo and controversial area of research because it had the possibility of exposing the cruel nature of the college football injuries. Many coaches might have axed the proposal before it even had a chance. Spurrier’s progressive attitude welcomed my research as well as subsequent neuropsychological studies on head injuries that have already benefited many players.

He allowed a psychologist in the training room and won a national championship doing it. We all learned more about the benefits of social support on the injured athlete.

Smart teammates, coaches, players and trainers now make efforts to support injured players rather than tossing them out as a dirty secret. This helps the players in their recovery and emotional well being. The whole team improves, too.

Spurrier’s fearlessness to explore new ideas makes him not only a successful coach but a leader who inspires confidence in those around him. He motivates by example, disciplines with honesty and concerns himself not only with the athlete-student but the student-athlete as well. He risked learning more about what happens to the injured football player and helped his team in the process.

Competition is much more than X’s and O’s. Knowledge of the game is one thing, and Spurrier knows football better than most. Motivating people, however, is even more important. The Redskins hired the best.

John F. Murray, Ph.D. West Palm Beach, Fla.

League is out of bounds – The NFL enforces a practice that’s unconstitutional and reeks of collusion. During the past month, the Chronicle kept on updating the list of underclassmen who requested early entry into the draft this spring. All met the NFL requirements of being at least 21 years old or three years removed from high school graduation. Younger players were excluded.

In baseball, basketball and hockey, players can be drafted out of high school. The strongest union in sports isn’t the Major League Baseball Players Association but the NFL owners. And again, they quietly yet powerfully have exhibited their muscle.

Someday, somewhere, a physically prepared receiver, running back, or defensive back will be courageous enough to fight this inequity. The NFL knows it’s legally wrong, but it wants to keep its NCAA farm system intact. And as long as nobody is willing to fight the rule – and perhaps sacrifice millions of dollars – there’s no motivation for change.

Maybe it’s too much to expect college football to produce a 19-year-old Curt Flood. In the 1970s, Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause, which allowed a team to hold a player’s rights in perpetuity. Flood’s court battle made him an outcast in management’s eyes. His career was finished, but his efforts eventually spawned the free-agent movement that revolutionized the game.

It is highly likely that if a modern-day Flood took the league to court and won, the word would spread that he probably wouldn’t get drafted. A hollow threat, right? In baseball, you can count on a renegade owner to buck the agenda of the whole.

But in the NFL, the owners understand they stand much stronger together. That’s the legacy of late commissioner Pete Rozelle, who taught them the virtues of revenue-sharing close to 40 years ago. The NFL would do whatever is necessary to maintain its rule on draft eligibility. There is always the possibility of retaliation should anyone successfully challenge its legality.

If and when that courageous young man comes along to challenge the rule, he will probably win the court fight and the NFL probably realizes that, so it’s going to do whatever possible to prevent that challenge from coming.

If freedom and equal protection under the law are the basic precepts of American ideals, then someone needs to tell the NFL that it’s way out of bounds. Chris Henderson Houston

Baseball deteriorating – I find myself wondering how many people will turn out to watch baseball next year. But then I remember that baseball has always done this sort of thing. Not just what is going on in Boston with the sale of the Red Sox, but the rules violations by Bud Selig, the contraction stories and the possibility of a work stoppage.

They beat the fans silly, and the fans always come back for more. If any winter were to disprove this theory, it is this winter. If nothing else, Selig and his cronies have managed to suck most of the life out of the sport. But somehow I know the fans will return in numbers, although with ever-diminishing enthusiasm. G.G. Yeap Houston
Photo: Judgment day: Thomas Junta closes his eyes during his sentencing for the manslaughter death of Michael Costin. Junta was convicted of beating Costin to death and sentenced to 6 to 10 years in prison.
Associated Press
Edition: 2 STAR
Section: SPORTS 2
Page: 5