Tuesday, March 12, 2002

PULFER: Pee-wee suit

Let's give sports back to kids

By Laura Pulfer, lpulfer@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        I'm trying to take this seriously, really I am. Children are involved. A lawsuit has been filed. Charges include defamation and conspiracy. Millions of dollars and reputations are hanging in the balance.

        But I can't stop laughing.

        Two pee-wee football coaches and their wives filed a $4.8 million lawsuit against the parents of some of the kids on their team, the Kettering Wee Wildcats. Philip Winters and Craig Copher charge that defendants made “false and defamatory statements and accusations” about their coaching and sportsmanship.

        And the suit claims one of the defendants, specifically, called Philip Winters a very bad, an extremely bad name. One that we can't print in a family publication, one that I cannot even say to my mother in private. Since this is a football organization for wee, elementary school athletes, perhaps we could just substitute the phrase ""big doody head” instead.

        Loss of consortium

        According to the suit filed in Montgomery County, plaintiffs “suffered injury and impairment to their reputation and standing in the community; humiliation; mental anguish and suffering; exposure to public hatred, ridicule, shame, disgrace and impeachment of their skill, knowledge and manner in which they conduct themselves.”

        But this is not the worst part.

        The wives of the coaches claim that they were deprived of consortium. And those of us who are not pee-wee football players know what this means. During this ordeal, the suit alleges, they lost their husbands' “love, companionship, services, conjugal affection, comfort and solace.” Which they say is worth $100,000.

        How did they came up with this figure? Is there a Blue Book for this kind of thing?

        “I'd rather not comment about the dollar amounts,” their attorney, Lucas Wilder, said. But he volunteered that the Cophers have withdrawn from this suit. “For now. They could refile within a year if they want to.”

        Besides compensatory damages of $100,000, Julie Winters is asking for $300,000 in punitive damages. The good news, according to an article in New Jersey Law Journal, is that awards due to loss of consortium are nontaxable.

        The bad news would be that in the course of this “complaint with jury demand,” testimony would be forthcoming about the exact nature of the hardship endured. If getting called a “big doody head” in public isn't bad enough, now conjugal performance will be discussed in open court.

        Unruly adults

        And if this actually goes to trial, it seems likely the fourth-grade players would be called to testify, at least about the sportsmanship. It's enough to make you steer your kids toward skateboarding and Parcheesi.

        Or, even better, put them in charge of their own sports again.

        According to a recent survey by Sports Illustrated for Kids, nearly 75 percent of young adults have seen out-of-control adults at their games. That number seems low to me. Maybe just screaming and throwing down clipboards doesn't count. Maybe you have to take a swing at somebody.

        This very messy situation in an upscale Dayton suburb is the talk of the community. One can only imagine what the children saw at various football games. One can only imagine what they heard from the adults in their lives at games. And at home.

        That part, of course, is not funny.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.


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