Column on the finger at state volleyball

(NOTE: This column was published in today’s Gazette)

The message arrived in my e-mail inbox at 11:32 Friday night.

The author was a high school volleyball player who had competed at the state tournament earlier in the day.

Out of respect and because of the author’s age, her name and school are withheld.

Something was weighing on her mind, and for good reason:

“I would like to sincerely apologize regarding my behavior toward the photographers.


At the end of the match, (our team) was very emotional and we were all crying and hugging each other. I was bawling in the arms of one of my teammates when I saw two photographers about 4 feet away from my face snapping photos of a very emotional and heartbreaking moment.”

It was a great match, one of the most suspenseful of a tournament full of great matches.

The winners cry in celebration and get to play another day.

The losers cry in despair. Their season is over. Maybe their career is over.

It’s raw emotion, as one of my co-workers suggested.

Matches like this are why you go to summer camps or wake up at 5 in the morning for two-a-days in August.

“I had a weak moment and thought for a second that it would lighten the mood for myself if I made an obscene gesture with my middle finger straight at the photographers.”


Lighten the mood?

Pick one: Tell a joke. Sing a song. Flip the bird …

“Right after I did it, I felt completely embarrassed and realized how unclassy, immature, and stupid I was for doing it.”


Right after you did it (and yes, I saw it as it happened), I thought back to my days as a high school athlete, albeit a mediocre one at best.

I contemplated the ramifications had I committed such an act.

And I shuddered.

The scruff of my neck would have been grabbed by my father.

I’d have been dragged off the floor.

It would have been ugly and humiliating. It would have been justified.

But that was the mid-’80s. Times have changed. Twenty years ago, we’d have been outraged by such a gesture. Today, we just shrug and shake our heads. And that’s more sad than the gesture itself.

“I did apologize later to the photographers but I feel like it wasn’t enough.

“I feel like a disgrace and that I did not represent (my school) well and I did not represent myself well.”

The moment of my bad decision has been re-playing in my mind over and over again and has dominated my thoughts even more than the last point of the match …

And your feelings are right on the money.

On the other hand, your sincerity appears legitimate. If your conscience convinces you to craft an e-mail at 11:32 at night, I don’t classify you as a phony.

Whether you face punishment is up to your school and for your parents to decide. Assuming you grow wiser from this, I feel your suffering has been sufficient.

Your own words describe your act as “unclassy, immature and stupid.” If this is the most unclassy, immature and stupid thing you do in life, you will have lived well.

“I am very sorry. I am truly embarrassed and I wanted to give a sincere apology.”


Apology accepted.



(Thoughts? Too harsh on the girl? Too soft??)


3 Responses to “Column on the finger at state volleyball”

  1. D Says:

    Too soft. Regret is fine, but I sincerely hope the athlete is punished in accordance with her school’s good conduct policy.

    These athletes have rules of conduct that they are (or should be) keenly aware of. They understand that they are representing their school and community, and they should also understand that in a state competition, the press will be there, to capture both the joy of winning, and the pain of loss.

    It’s all part and parcel.
    Too often this type of behavior is ignored, or overlooked, and the students suffer no consequence…resulting in both inequity in the school, between the “starts” and the “nobody’s”, and more importantly, a generation or disrespectful foul mouthed young people who really don’t understand that their behaviors and comments are inappropriate.

    You should go hang out in a few classrooms…you’d likely be as appalled as I was, when I spent a day following my student around.

  2. Dave Ryan Says:

    Your comments are appropriate and reasonable. This is a huge learning moment for anyone that read the story.

    The athlete has taken responsibility for her actions which I applaud, but I assume/hope she will be on the hook for further recourse at home and/or at school.

    Good kids make mistakes every day. I have a feeling your article will help this student athlete and many others make better choices in the future.

    I plan to read this article tonight aloud around our dinner table.

  3. VB ref Says:

    Far too harsh. It’s tough to lose, and you ought not to have taken it personally. Her apology was kind and thoughtful, and the fact that your response is the essence of “Dang right, you’re sorry. Not as sorry as I’d have had to be back in the day” makes you sound ornery and ridiculous. This competition is about the kids, and the fact that she had the gumption to write such an apology is beyond her years.

    I applaud her for her proper response, and I do not throw stones at her emotional gesture, even though I can’t condone it.

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