Archive for August, 2006

>MANISTEE — Billy Ray Cyrus performed two sold out shows at the Little River Casino Resort on Sunday to a room full of extremely enthusiastic fans. Between the two performances, Cyrus signed autographs from the stage, and also held a meet and greet session for members of his fan club and others who were lucky enough to get a hold of back stage passes. Judging from the reaction of the fans Sunday night, if the ballroom at Little River would have held twice as many seats, they would have been able to fill them.After meeting with twenty or so of the more rabid fans, Cyrus was able to answer a few questions, darting outside a side door of the conference center in the middle of the construction of Little River’s forthcoming 1400 seat entertainment venue. The interview which was originally scheduled for 4:30 had been pushed to 6:30, and the 15 allotted minutes were now whittled down by his brother and road manager Mick to about five. He had good things to say about Manistee during that short time. Cyrus looked over to the ongoing construction site. “It’s growing,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of casinos, start out, across the country, from the ground floor, and when you see what it can do for the community, and what it can do for the state, what it can do for the people — the whole attitude in general is awesome, and anytime you see something like this growing, its just such a great thing.”Most people remember Cyrus from his 1992 hit “Achy Breaky Hearty”, and his infamous mullet. The success of “Achy Breaky Heart” from his first album Some Gave All helped renew the popularity of line dancing and made Cyrus a star. But the general public has deemed Cyrus a one-hit wonder since he fell off the radar in the early nineties. His hard-core fans, however, never left.Cyrus’ follow-up album, It Won’t Be the Last, began strong, but sales were disappointing compared to Some Gave All. He appeared on Dolly Parton’s 1993 single “Romeo”, then continued to chart and release four more albums over the next six years. These were Storm in the Heartland (1994), Trail of Tears (1996), Shot Full of Love (1998) and Southern Rain (2000). He has had some success as a gospel singer with his album The Other Side in 2003. His most recent album, released in July 2006, is Wanna Be Your Joe.Most people, however, don’t know about the other albums and the years of touring Cyrus has done. They remember that one song, and that old hair-cut. Cyrus even lampooned himself on one of his albums with a cut entitled “I Want My Mullet Back.”In 2004, Blender magazine selected “Achy Breaky Heart” as the magazine’s choice for “second worst song ever.” Those who have written Cyrus off as a one hit wonder should note, however, that his career has included three #1 singles and six Top Ten singles, including “Could’ve Been Me” and “In the Heart of a Woman.” Cyrus also holds the record for the longest time at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart for a debut record (17 weeks).Cyrus has always been modest and down to earth in the past, partly due to the fun had at his expense from critics — but his recent successes in the realm of television have given him more confidence, and a bit of a harder edge; some might even say “cockiness”. Gone is the simple guy from Nashville who made it big; now he has more of the temperament seen from a Hollywood celebrity. In 2001, Cyrus began playing the lead role on the PAX (now i Network) comedy-drama Doc. Doc became the highest-rated show on the network, and continues to air in reruns on the channel. In 2005, Cyrus expanded his acting career in a stage production of “Annie Get Your Gun” in Toronto, in the role of Frank Butler. 2004 brought Cyrus another guest starring role in an episode of the Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation.Most recently, Cyrus and his daughter Miley starred in the first season of a new Disney Channel original television series, “Hannah Montana”. The show revolves around a young pop star (played by Miley) who adopts an alter-ego to protect her identity at school, fulfilling her wish to live life as a “normal” kid. Cyrus plays the pop star’s widowed father, manager, and famous singer Robbie Ray. Footage of Robbie Ray as a famous singer in the past is actual footage and photos of Billy Ray himself as a singer. Hannah Montana is currently airing on the Disney Channel, and has received positive reviews from critics and viewers. Many of the fans at Sunday’s performance were young fans of the show and of Miley, and several in attendance were hoping that she was with her famous dad on the tour. One of Cyrus’ staff members said he likes to joke with the crowd when they ask for her and he tells them she’s back on the bus. All joking aside, of his newly famous daughter, he says, “She’s got a busy future — she’s like me, she loves acting and she loves singing. Her whole heart’s into it.”The success of the show has made Miley a star, but according to her dad, “she’s making her second album, and doing videos for the first; she’s staying so busy, she hasn’t had time to realize how huge this thing is, but when she gets out on the road with the Cheetah Girls at the end of September, first part of October, she’s going to see first hand that (fame) is very powerful.”When asked how he has the time to fit in touring and acting on a popular Disney channel show, he replied, “I just stay busy, and I’m lucky because I love what I do. I love making music, and I love acting.” Then, as quickly as he came, and without another word, Cyrus turned and bolted for his tour bus, to get a five minute break before he went out on stage once again.And in case you’re wondering, he finished the show with “Achey Breaky Heart.” After all, he knows what the fans want. Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>Why did the car companies decide that it was a good idea to put those “change engine oil” lights in our cars? Do they have a secret alliance with the Jiffy Lube cartel to brainwash people into getting their oil changed bi-weekly? If they think that I’m coming to the dealership to get my oil changed when that little light comes on, they’re nuts. I’m not going to pay those prices.. Does anyone really use that as their reminder to change their oil, anyway? Most of us drive far beyond the mileage counter number on the cute little sticker on the windshield. Then, we proceed to drive beyond the date that is printed on there, too. If I can ignore that sticker, I can surely ignore a light on my dashboard. I guess I don’t mind that they put those “change oil” lights in the car, but good God! Make it easier to cancel them out once I actually do change the oil. The guy at the oil change place should just be able to flip a switch, but of course its not that easy. I turn on the key, turn off the key, pump the gas pedal three times in five seconds, say the magic word, cross my eyes, and do everything the owner’s manual says to turn that stupid light off, but it WON’T GO OFF! And everyone who rides in your car has to point out, “hey, you should get your oil changed, your light is on.” This only adds insult to injury. Anyway, since when do I have to take advice from my car? What’s next, diet tips from the refrigerator? Wait, I saw a commercial the other day for a refrigerator that’s hooked up to the Internet and has a television built into it, so maybe that IS possible. If General Motors really wants to put a useful gadget in my car, how about linoleum flooring? The rugs in my vehicles have gone from their natural color to a dark black from coffee, pop, milk, smashed Cheerios, and all of the other wonderful fast food droppings that find their way there when my family consumes meals on long drives. With a linoleum floor, I could squeegee it clean after every road trip, maybe even toss down a little Mop ‘N Glo and get it sparkling clean again. Linoleum floors would be useful — the change oil light doesn’t do anything for me except incite my already borderline road-rage I feel from the morons who pass me every time I pull over to let an ambulance drive by. What is the deal with that? The unwritten code of the road says, re-enter the traffic flow in the order that you pulled over for the emergency vehicle. Yeah, I’m talking about you; the guy in the white truck who passed me in front of the hospital the other day. Remember driver’s education? Sure, that was decades ago, I know, but I’m sure you remember those “Blood on the Highway” movies. Well, besides admonishing drunk driving, one of the really important lessons we learned was to pull over when you see an ambulance with its lights flashing in the rear view mirror. You never know, It could be your grandmother inside there who just had a coronary and every minute may count. It doesn’t mean that you get a “free pass” to go around me whenever I follow the law and pull over. What it all boils down to is that everyone is in too much of a hurry on the roads these days. If scientists actually did experiments to see how much time is saved by running yellow lights and passing people when they pull over for ambulances, I’m sure they’d find that the total savings per trip equates to only about a minute or so. Is it really worth risking life and limb to arrive at the dentist or the grocery store one minute earlier? Or maybe those people in such a hurry are rushing to Jiffy Lube to get an oil change because their little light is on…Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>Technology is great, isn’t it? We can instantly communicate with people from all over the world via email or instant messenger, talk wirelessly via mobile phone with coverage almost everywhere, and receive documents over the fax machine or as email attachments. The Internet allows us to take our laptops wherever we can pick up a wireless signal, and any information we want can be obtained as quickly as we can type it into a search engine on the web.Technology has made us more efficient at home and at work, able to do more than previous generations were able to accomplish. Now that we are so efficient, we have more leisure time, work shorter hours, and can enjoy life more.What’s that you say? Oh, yeah…now that we’re more efficient, we actually do more work. But that doesn’t make any sense, does it?People seem to have become addicted to “staying in touch” with their jobs. Cell phones and laptops with virtual private network connections to work make it possible for workers to connect with their jobs anytime they want, and their employers can in turn contact them any time they need to, even when it intrudes on their outside-work lives. Now, one machine can do it all. Cell phones with e-mail and instant messenger capability combine all of the work contact possibilities into one easy package. But are we more efficient because of technology, or simply more tethered to work? A survey revealed that, on average, people check their mail about five times a day, and a quarter of them cannot go without it for more than three days at a stretch. More than 4,000 people across 20 U.S. cities participated in the survey, carried out by AOL in partnership with Opinion Research.Before the advent of email, how did we use this time? To actually interact with our families? Read a book? Exercise? The extent that email has robbed us of our leisure time is immeasurable.Cell phones are an even larger encroachment on our daily lives. A survey by BBDO worldwide found that 75 percent of cell phone owners had it turned on and within reach during their waking hours, 59 percent wouldn’t think of lending their cell phone to a friend for a day, and 26 percent said it was more important to go home to retrieve a cell phone than a wallet. A study by Telephia, a mobile industry tracker, found that Americans averaged 13 hours a month — with users ages 18 to 24 racking up close to 22 hours.That’s one whole day each month spent on a cell phone. I’d rather spend that time at the beach.So, all of the free time we were supposed to have because technology made us more efficient is actually being absorbed by the same technology we so lovingly embrace. It’s amazing anyone has time to watch a sunset or walk their dog. I guess you can engage in both of those activities while talking on a cell phone, though.It gets worse.Internet addiction specialists estimate that six percent to ten percent of the approximately 189 million Internet users in this country have a dependency that can be as destructive as alcoholism and drug addiction, and they are rushing to treat it. Not only are we using the Internet too much, now we can become clinically addicted to it.When electric typewriters and Xerox machines were introduced to the business world to help save time in the workplace, nobody became addicted to them. So why are we so absorbed with new technology these days?Because communication is the lifeblood of humanity. Exchanging ideas, words, pictures, music, feelings, and just about anything else fills a basic human need. We also seek to be connected to those we care about, and those things we care about — like work. But are employers taking advantage of our need to connect?Is it fair to ask employees to be readily accessible to their employers 24/7? And why do employers feel that they can ask their workers to be available whenever they need them?The final result of this constant attachment to the workplace is that we’ve spawned a nation of work-aholics in America, whose identities are tied solely to their careers. “It’s not about long hours,” says Robinson, a psychotherapist in private practice in Asheville, N.C., and author of Chained To The Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and The Clinicians Who Treat Them. “It’s about the inability to turn it off. It’s a question of balance.”The answer seems to be just that. Balance. Americans put in the longest hours among industrialized nations on the job, nearly 2000 hours per capita, and the annual working hours in the U.S. are steadily rising. We seem to be working too much, and relaxing less.So, when you go home tonight, unplug your cell phone, turn off your computer, and let your inbox fill up. Read a book, walk the dog, or play with the kids. Technology should be a tool, not an anchor.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net.

>I knew it was coming, but the shock was still staggering. As I picked up a copy of the Detroit Free Press on July 4th, the enormous two-inch headline informed me that my childhood idol, Steve Yzerman, had retired. I hate to admit it, being a full grown man, but my eyes were moist and my throat tightened a bit as I read the many tributes to this Motor City hero.Stevie Y came to play for the Red Wings at the age of 18, only 5 years older than I was back in 1983. I would watch hockey faithfully with my dad back then, learning the names and positions of all the Wings, and cheering for our hometown boys despite their dismal performance year-in and year-out. When I started to play hockey myself a few years later on the frozen lakes and ponds of Oakland County, and in the wee hours of the night at a Frasier hockey rink with a group of friends who had formed a hockey club, we would emulate the scoring plays of number 19. One of the guys would float a pass to me, and I’d hammer it in, raise my arms and shout “Yzerman with the one-timer!” I never would have imagined that 22 years later, I would coach and play hockey with my son and he would make the same exclamation after a particularly well-placed shot into the back of the net. Yzerman came to Detroit during what we suburban-Detroiters call the “Dead Wings era.” During this time, Stevie Y was the entire franchise — as the Wings failed time and time again to advance in the playoffs. We were and always have been loyal fans, though, and faithfully followed the fortunes of our hometown team. While other players came and went, The Captain, was a constant fixture, his name synonymous with Red Wing hockey, and hockey in general. Without him, Detroit never would have become “Hockey Town.” And without him, the Wings would not have brought the Stanley Cup back to Detroit after a drought of 42 years. Only the ‘84 World Series win by the Tigers brought as much pride and excitement to the motor city as winning that cup. But the Detroit Red Wings were more than a mere hockey team after winning the cup in 1997, they were now a franchise, winning it again two more times under the leadership of Yzerman, and remaining a force to be reckoned with year after year in the regular season and in the playoffs.What can you say about an athlete whose longevity and influence allowed him to serve as a role model for both me and my son? We will likely never again witness a player who stays with one team for his entire career, let alone a 22-year career. We may never see another captain who serves for 19 straight seasons. This really is an end to an important era for Detroit sports fans.It is difficult to imagine a Red Wing team without number 19 on the roster. He was a somber, quiet leader; modest, and unassuming. He led by example, playing with his heart and with sheer determination, even when his body failed him. He endured a broken collarbone, several injuries and surgeries on his knee, and nearly lost an eye to an errant puck, but he continued to play with the same level of determination while providing the same unparalleled leadership to his team. It will not be his playing ability that is lost, as much as it will be his sheer presence in the lockerroom and on the ice.Yzerman has served as a role model to sports fans and non sports fans alike. At the age of 5, he decided he wanted to play in the NHL, and not only did he achieve this goal, but he became one of the most beloved hockey players of all time, playing for one of the greatest sports franchises of all time, becoming the youngest captain in their history at the tender age of 21, and remaining so for the rest of his career — a career that included three Stanley Cup wins, 10 All-Star team appearances, and an Olympic gold medal for his native Canada.But, I suppose, hockey will go on. Wings head coach Mike Babcock said it best, “You can’t replace Steve Yzerman.” Somehow, though, we will become accustomed to seeing the familiar “C” on the jersey of another player — perhaps Nicklas Lidstrom — and we will watch in awe the amazing accomplishments of another Red Wing center, like Henrik Zetterberg. The comparisons will always be there, though. Whoever Stevie Y passes the gauntlet to will forever live in his shadow, constantly working to prove themselves worthy to play for the team that Steve built, through his leadership and determination and grit; through his example of exemplary play and good sportsmanship.Yes, somehow, we will drag ourselves out of bed this fall, face the inevitability that number 19 has moved on, and learn to embrace this new era of Red Wings hockey. We can still keep Steve Yzerman in our hearts and in our memories, though, and imagine ourselves as the captain when we put the puck into an improvised net on the frozen pond, at a game at the local rink, or even in the driveway. No time would have been the “right time” for him to go as far as I’m concerned, but I understand that it is time –too many injuries, and too many miles — and I reflect fondly on all the years he has given us, and the inspiration he has provided to scores of young and old fans alike. Thanks, captain. Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>Dominik Hasek was at one time undeniably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. His unique style and spectacular ability to flop around in the crease, making butterfly moves to stop shots, helped the Red Wings to win their last Stanley Cup in 2002. With their recent reacquisition of “The Dominator”, The Red Wings are now looking for a repeat performance. The Wings took a page out of their history book while looking toward the future, and signed the 41-year-old Dominator on Monday to a one-year contract worth $750,000, with incentives based on playoff performance. “Dom seems very committed and very excited about an opportunity to come back to Detroit and try to help our team win a Stanley Cup,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We really see Dom coming into training camp as our No. 1 goaltender. Bringing Dom back is a real positive for our team and is very exciting.” But did the Red Wings really need help in goal? They posted the NHL’s best record in the regular season with Manny Legace in the crease, but surprised fans with a first-round playoff elimination against Edmonton. It seems to be a trend in professional sports today to ignore the statistics a coach or a player has racked up during the regular season, and judge him instead solely on his playoff performance. Legace’s performance helped the Wings to get to the playoffs in the first place. Putting the blame for the first round loss squarely on his shoulders seems a little unfair.It’s no secret that Hasek is returning to Detroit after an injury-plagued season with the Ottawa Senators. He joins another Red Wings Cup-winner, Chris Osgood, who was brought back as a reserve. This goaltender lineup would have sounded like a dream three or four years ago, but today, has fans wondering if Hasek’s recurring injuries will keep him sidelined; or even if he does manage to stay healthy — whether or not he still has the stuff that cups are made of at the age of 41. After deciding not to bring back Manny Legace, the Red Wings made finding a starting goalie their top priority. They explored the trade market, spoke to three teams and took a close look at Ed Belfour, whose 457 victories rank second on the NHL list. Negotiations broke down, though, leading Belfour to sign a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers. Belfour would have been a far better pick than Hasek, and a better fit for the Wings. It’s a shame that Holland couldn’t make this deal work. Hasek, who will begin his third stint with Detroit, earned $1.5 million with the Senators last season. Ottawa said good-bye to the six-time Vezina Trophy winner earlier this month and replaced him with former Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber. The Senators seem to have the right idea about gambling another season on the ailing Hasek. Detroit acquired Hasek the first time in 2001 in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, where he had been since 1992. He backstopped the Red Wings to the championship during his first season in Detroit and then retired that summer. Since coming out of retirement, Hasek hasn’t been the same sensational goal-stopper that he was in the past. Despite the controversy surrounding a retirement comeback, Hasek resurrected his career and rejoined Detroit for the 2003-04 season. That created an uncomfortable goaltending triangle with Curtis Joseph and Legace. Hasek played in just 14 games, going 8-3-2 with a 2.21 goals-against average, before a chronic groin injury ended his season, the same injury that has recurred since, and may flare up once again.Hasek was having a good season last year, going 28-10-4 with a 2.09 GAA in 43 games with Ottawa, but didn’t play after injuring his groin while playing for the Czech Republic in the Turin Olympics. Hasek hoped to return during the post-season but never fully recovered. If the regular season means nothing to the Wings, and the playoffs mean everything, then the possibility of losing Hasek to a mid-season injury should have been given more weight by Ken Holland and the rest of the Wing’s management team. Hasek hasn’t played a complete season in four years. “I do all kinds of sports, testing my groin,” Hasek said. “At this point, it feels great. That’s my goal, to feel great the whole season.” Unfortunately, hoping won’t make it happen. Hasek said he hasn’t discussed his playing schedule but wouldn’t mind playing 45 to 55 games. “I don’t have to play 65 games like I used to. It’s not necessary at all,” Hasek said. “I want to be playing my best hockey when the playoffs arrive.” For our sake, I hope that Hasek can make it through those 55 games without succumbing to his nagging injuries. The Wings will have a much better chance of keeping him healthy if they play Osgood and Hasek equal time, rather than the primary goalkeeper/backup goalkeeper arrangement. Hasek, 41, has a career record of 324-206-82 in 638 NHL games. He ranks fifth among active goaltenders in wins and 18th overall. His 68 shutouts are third best among active players and 12th highest on the league’s career list. He also won the Hart Trophy, awarded for the NHL’s most valuable player, twice in 1997 and 1998.His record is good, but lets just hope he didn’t peak back in 2002, and that he still has a little goaltending magic left in him. Otherwise, fans in Detroit might be wishing he would have never left retirement.Cean Burgeson can be reached at cburgeson@pioneergroup.net

>What will the Bush legacy be? How will he be remembered? First off, he will be remembered as a president who served during a time of extreme crisis; September 11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fight to strengthen our country’s defenses against the threat of terrorism.But will the president share the same fate as president Johnson — being forever linked with the escalation of an unpopular war with an unclear exit strategy? If his father was remembered for “read my lips, no new taxes”, George W. will be remembered for the failed attempt to find those much talked about and endlessly debated WMD’s, and for standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and declaring combat operations in Iraq “over”. Whether or not the president and his administration purposely used weapons of mass destruction as a reason for the Iraq invasion — knowing that the intelligence wasn’t correct, is the big question; one for which I don’t have the answer. Whether Bush had planned to invade Iraq before 9/11 happened in order to seek some type of closure for Bush Sr.’s gulf war is also a point of contention. Unfortunately, the truth of these accusations is difficult to determine, and I will leave that to speculation.Why we entered the war and how we entered it are no longer issues we should waste our time debating. Now that we have a protracted war in Iraq, with casualties and deaths to our soldiers growing daily, the only questions we should be asking are: how long will this war take, what is the strategy for our eventual withdrawal, and how will we know when we’ve won?The administration’s answer that setting a withdrawal date or schedule of specific troop reductions would only show weakness to the enemy is not sufficient. The U.S. could develop an exit strategy without jeopardizing our troops. I think our military leaders are intelligent and experienced enough to develop a suitable plan. If we truly believe that all nations have the right to a democratic government and sovereign rule, it seems like we would want to leave the Iraqi people to rule as they see fit and to settle their own problems now that we have deposed their dictator and freed them to proceed with a new democratic government. So, besides the war, what legacy will G.W. leave? I did a Google search for “Bush accomplishments” and got zero hits, but I’ll see if I can piece a couple of things together on my own. (Dave accuses me of plagiarizing my material off of the Internet, anyway.)Even though I’m not a huge fan of the war, Sadam Hussein was captured and is facing trial. The world is surely a better place because of this. Also, two-thirds of al-Qaeda leaders have been captured or killed.Through diplomatic negotiations, nuclear weapons programs have been disabled in Libya, and talks continue with North Korea. So far, so good.Here’s where it gets tricky. Bush has instituted the USA PATRIOT Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, track terrorists, disrupt terrorist cells, and to seize assets. The new Department of Homeland Security supplements such legislation by enabling coasts and borders to be patrolled with a closer eye. In theory, this is great.However, I tend to agree with some of the experts, who say that the USA PATRIOT ACT is taking away honest citizens’ rights. The current administration is walking a very thin line when it comes to the protection of private citizens versus the rights to privacy of these same citizens.Add to this the debate over illegal wire-tapping, and the CIA leak scandal, and Bush’s security record reads like a page out of George Orwell’s 1984.Now, just so Dave doesn’t accuse me of being a bleeding-heart liberal, I would like to add that I voted for George Bush Sr. in 1988, and I worked for the Republicans in the state house for a couple of years as well. I mention these items only because I want to point out that I judge a president not by his party, but by his politics, and his record. Judging by his record, George W. Bush will be remembered as a war president, and nothing else — except maybe “the Decider.”

Human beings have a natural, genetically pre-wired need for competition. And like any other human need, such as hunger or thirst, this need must be fulfilled in order for humans to feel whole. This is why I found myself in a triathlon in Interlochen a few weeks ago. I had never competed in one, but was convinced by my wife to do so. She had always dreamed of being a “triathlete,” and I went along for the ride.After all, I couldn’t let her have bragging rights over me if I didn’t do it, too.For those of you who aren’t familiar with this multi-sport event, you swim, then bike, then run a pre-determined distance. The olympic distances are a 1500 meter (just under one mile) swim, then a 40 Kilometer (24.8 mile) bike, finishing with a 10K (6.2 mile) run. The race we participated in was a shorter version, called a “sprint,” which comprised of a 500-meter swim, a 20K bike, and a 5K run. Although it was shorter, it was just as brutal for those of us who aren’t in olympic shape.The entire course took almost two hours to complete.In 90 degree heat.I had to ask myself why we did this… Because we need to compete.Nothing feels better than accomplishing something, especially when pitted against our fellow man (or woman.) Human beings competed for millions of years for food, shelter, mates, and just about everything else. Competition is part of our genetic survival code.That is why it feels good to compete, whether or not we win or lose — it’s in our blood. My 7 year old son is extremely competitive. This is not something we taught him. He came that way.As a father and a coach for more than one of his teams, I’ve learned that one of the hardest things to teach children is the fine balance between competitiveness and bad sportsmanship.Despite that, this is an extremely important lesson to teach; and I think at times, we shortcut it as parents and coaches, or avoid it altogether. My son has played in leagues where they keep score, and leagues where they don’t keep score. He enjoys the ones where they keep score much more — as do most of his teammates. Even in the leagues where we tell the kids we aren’t keeping score, they do it anyway. Young athletes enjoy measuring themselves against others, just like their full-grown counterparts. Sometimes I wonder if we’re de-emphasizing competitiveness too much with our children.I agree, at a young age, its important for kids to learn the game, without the pressure of worrying whether they are scoring or not. Unfortunately, parents have ruined it for their kids over the last 10 years or so. There have been too many instances of parents being injured or even killed over children’s sporting events.And who hasn’t witnessed the “ugly parent,” who yells at his own child, or the opposing team, coaches, or officials during a game. It’s an ugly thing to see, and children don’t need to be exposed to this type of behavior. But have we gone too far in trying to shelter kids? What do we teach our children when we tell them that keeping score isn’t important? They know from watching television that there’s a winner and a loser in every game. There is an age at which kids can handle losing a game, and its good for them to learn that they won’t always end up on top in life. Its not just a cliche’ — more can be learned from losing than winning. The difference between this lesson being a constructive or a destructive one for a child is in how the subject is broached by parents, coaches, and officials. Children’s sports can still be fun and rewarding for children when they are allowed to experience the joy of victory, as well as the agony of defeat. I think we’ve forgotten that its possible to still teach sportsmanship while keeping a tally of who performed better on a particular day.It’s a more realistic way to instruct children about sports — and life, for that matter. Studies suggest that participation in sports can be very beneficial, fostering responsible social behaviors, greater academic success, and an appreciation of personal health and fitness. Participating on a team can also give children an important sense of belonging.Sports are opportunities for youth to learn; they provide a “practice field” for life. Learning to work as part of a team teaches children social skills that will help them in their growth into adults, not just as athletes. For youth, participating in sports develops teamwork, leadership, self-confidence,self-discipline, and coping skills. Sports also teach a respect for authority.The most important part of athletics is participation. That’s why I didn’t care if I won my age group in the Interlochen triathlon. I was there to participate, and just to see if I could finish — even though I finished near the bottom of the heap. We don’t always give our children the credit they deserve. They’re smart enough to know right from wrong. We just need to guide them properly. If we show our kids that we are most proud of them for their participation, they don’t care whether or not they win or lose, and they’re better off in the long run.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: cburgeson@pioneergroup.net