Let me say from the beginning of this column I don't have children. I have two nephews and a niece I would literally die for, but I've never experienced the deep-seeded affection I hear parents mention so often.

I would like to think I have walking-around sense however. And when it comes to what is going on in this country concerning violence at recreation or high school games, there is no debating the subject. So many people are now nuts, and it's starting to rub off on their offspring.

On April 27, an official at a Utah prep soccer game had the audacity to give an over-exuberant goalie a yellow card, meaning one more such infraction and the accused is booted out of the contest. In response, the 17-year-old goalie punched the official in the face, prompting the victim to start vomiting blood and showing other signs of stress. By the weekend, he'd slipped into a coma. By Saturday night, he was gone. Dead. Killed by a single punch.

The only national response anyone could make is "my God." What have we come to in this proud nation of ours?

Groups who monitor violence in sports said that while there is no record of a death in a youth-league contest, there are scores of assaults on officials confirmed. In this case, the deceased, 46-year old Ricardo Portillo, had already suffered two broken legs and broken ribs from past encounters over the past eight years. So Little Johnny, wearing the family's pride on his sleeve, gets what is perceived as a bad break from the officials, most of whom are volunteers, and he decides to punch him out. Thanks over-zealous parents, many of whom have never played organized sports. This is what you have given us.

When's the last time you went to a rec league game of any variety? It's embarrassing. Many so-called elite who ventured over to any ballpark have no clue that teaching a kid how to win and lose, respect for coaches, your opponents and most of all, the officials, is far more important than any outcome of a game that in the long run, means absolutely nothing.

What can be done? In Macon, Ga., they make parents who will be attending games go to a clinic about how to conduct themselves. Violate those rules, and you are immediately ejected from the stadium, no questions asked. How's that for a lead-out?

Kids are a product of their environment. Some have tempers, like many of us. But controlling it, especially in public, is a necessity. Otherwise, who will agree to be an official for fear of physical harm? Not me.

Phil Paramore's column appears Tuesdays in The Dothan Eagle. He can be heard weekdays from noon until 2 on AM 560 WOOF , 100.1 FM or www.woofradio. He can be reached at the same website.