Social media may be spurring fistfights at youth football games

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POSTED: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 11:00pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 11:57pm

With the tackles and touchdowns down on the field, and emotions running high in the stands, it's all part of the game many love called football.
But this year, some say sportsmanship has sailed.

"It has been the worst, with the parents arguing and fighting," said El Paso Parks and Recreation Dept. Youth Sports Director Paula Powell.

"We hadn't had a fight in over 10 years and this year we've had two," she said.

El Paso police officers had to get involved in one of those fights, on Nov. 9 at Marion Manor Park's football field.

Two women, walking back to their vehicles after a game with eight and nine year olds, were allegedly attacked by two other women from the opposing and losing team.

The attackers allegedly ran off before police could arrive. No arrests have been made.

But Powell says things are getting heated before the games even begin: on social media, and websites like EPGridiron.com.

The site has forum just for youth football.

One posting, goes like this:
"Obviously you didn't see that we pounded your team in a scrimmage... Come Saturday not only are you going to be reminded of who the Bandits are, but we're going to put a hurtin' on you for four quarters," it reads.

"I see parents putting bad words. I see a lot of bad things on that website and I know kids look at it," said Powell, who's interviewed the children after the fights.

"We don't endorse it, with the City, and we try to tell the kids not to look at it either," she said.

We asked parents if they knew about the site.

Most hadn't heard of it, but the ones who did said they don't bother posting on it.

"We don't get on it, we just watch it, what people say," said Rafael Sanchez. "We just feel, too many (are) commenting, it's not worth it on our part."

The site's owner, Victor Gonzalez, said he wasn't available for an interview until next August, but did sent this statement:

"You utilizing the word 'heated' when speaking about the users and the EP GRIDIRON FORUM is sort of misleading, bothers me, as it's too strong of a word to use here, for have you actually been to a few youth football games yourself? You know in person? Now that is "heated"!"

The City's trying to cool things down, with some changes in the works for next season.

They are considering changing where parents are allowed to sit at the games, and have plans to change the mandatory parent's class that's held before the season begins.

"We've actually let them go to a video class, and a lot of time in those classes they don't pay attention as much," said Powell.

But now?

"Everyone's going to have to go to a live class," she said.

There may also be a session on social media, about the impacts on children when they read comments like those posted on EPGridiron.com.

As for the bashing and bullying online, a simple reminder.

"Parents, you don't realize what impact you have on your children," she said. "It's a game. It really is just a game."

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