"I went to the fights the other night, and a high school basketball game broke out."
Sitting in the stands at Great Valley High School last Friday, watching the game between the Patriots and Kennett, I couldn't help but recall this old joke.
Of course in the original, Rodney Dangerfield was ripping hockey, not high school basketball, but the point is the same. When fighting becomes more important than outstanding play, the game becomes a joke.
The sad thing about what happened at Great Valley though, is it wasn't the players who dropped the gloves and went at it, it was a parent.
The main event happened midway through the fourth quarter. A fan from Kennett had perched himself on the top step of the bleachers, and shouted insults at the Great Valley players all night.
He went too far for the officials though, when he started cursing at some young Patriot boosters on the other side of the gym.
When asked to leave, this genius decided to get off his perch, storm down the steps, and get in the face of the official who asked him to leave.
Then, to the utter disbelief of everyone in attendence, he reached out and started choking the official by the neck.
The scene was so bizare, it seemed to be happening in slow motion. But while most mouths were still wide open, the guy was swamped by a score of other teachers and coaches and parents.
Eventually, order was restored, the police showed up, and the joke was on the unruly fan who got an up-close tour of the back seat of a police cruiser.
Lost in all of this was a great game, and that's what makes this joke not very funny.
I'll bet most of the students in attendence didn't talk about the feats of the players the next day at school, they talked about the embarrassing act of a parent.
That game was an extreme example of an unfortunate trend. In two other games I've covered this month, parents were asked to leave for unsportsmanship.
Maybe that is why most youth sports organizations require parents to sign behavior consent forms before their kids can participate.
And it seems to work for them.
You don't hear the jeers from the sidelines at youth events, you'll hear actual cheers.
I know there's more on the line once an athlete makes it to high school. Instead of playing for trophies, they play for scholarships.
But that shouldn't matter to the parents. There's more on the line for them too. They get to show their children that they don't need a consent form to act like a grown-up.
The fact that some just can't, is no laughing matter.