Sunday, May 05, 2013

In memoriam: Ricardo Portillo

You probably haven't heard of Mr. Portillo, of Murray, Utah.  Here are excerpts and pictures from the AP:

A Utah soccer referee who slipped into a coma after being punched by a teenage player during a game a week ago died Saturday night, police said.

Ricardo Portillo, 46, of Salt Lake City passed away at the hospital, where he was being treated following an assault, Unified police spokesman Justin Hoyal said.

Police have accused a 17-year-old player in a recreational soccer league of punching Portillo after the man called a foul on him and issued him a yellow card.

"The suspect was close to Portillo and punched him once in the face as a result of the call," Hoyal said in a press release.

The teenager was playing goalie . . . when Ricardo Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score a goal.

The teenager, quite a bit heavier than Portillo, began arguing with the referee, then unleashed a punch to his face. Portillo seemed fine at first, then asked to be held because he felt dizzy. He sat down and started vomiting blood, triggering his friend to call an ambulance.

When police arrived around noon, the teenager was gone and Portillo was laying on the ground in the fetal position. . . . He was considered to be in fair condition when they took him to the Intermountain Medical Center.

But when Portillo arrived to the hospital, he slipped into a coma with swelling in his brain.

There's just too much wrong here. One life lost. Many others will be in turmoil for years to come.  Here are Mr. Portillo's daughters Johana and Ana:

Sometimes things like this happen because of bad chemistry in the moment, and that may have been the case here.  Not that it excuses the behavior.

But sometimes things happen like this because a coach has not set a proper standard of behavior for his players--particularly at this age, where testosterone levels are apt to surge.  A short story, fortunately not in this category.  I recently was an assistant referee in a game with 16-year-old boys.  There were some scuffles on the field, and one team felt particularly (but not justifiably) aggrieved by the fact that the referee did not call as many fouls as they felt were warranted.  As the boys returned to their bench after the game, several complained to their coach about the referee, and the coach said, "I can't say anything as long as he has my (coach ID) card."

In others words, "You are right to be upset.  I would have yelled at the referee, but he would have sanctioned me."  What a standard of behavior!  How about, "The referee calls it as he sees it, and our job is to just play a fair game."

Referees who officiate at youth games in all sports do so for the love of the game and for the chance to enable children to have a pleasant experience that promotes individual and team development.  When violence occurs as a result of one immature and uncontrolled child, that is tragic.  When anger occurs as a result as a result of the poor example of a misguided coach, he or she has failed in exercising proper leadership with the children who are his or her charges.


Ed said...

You are onto something ..For the first time in decades, recently I had to call both coaching staffs together at 1/2 time, for talk about dissent, deportment, role model behavior, etc.,etc. The children were emulating the ‘adults’ with virtually identical dissent.

Unknown said...

As always an excellent analysis.

For my part, while I agree that the coach certainly has the ability to "set the tone", in this particular case it was apparently the players 1st match with that particular coach (per CBS).

So while as a general rule, I agree with you, and feel coaches should also take more responsibility for their own behavior which players mimic, their own behavior, and "coaching" outside the field shines through all too brightly as well.

There will be no winners here. A man has lost his life, a wife has lost her husband, and children have lost their father.

On the other side of the equation, a young mans life will be forever tainted by his choice to lash out in anger ... over a piece of plastic held above him which was yellow in color.

Truly tragic.

Marilyn said...

Paul, I don't think that things like this happen because of "bad chemistry in the moment". My guess is that this young man has shown aggressive behavior over the years and it has either been excused or enabled. Perhaps, his transgressions have been overlooked because he is a gifted athlete whose talents have been desired on the field of competition. I have seen this happen. This young man punched an adult male in the head forcibly enough to kill him after pushing an opponent. Tragic and sickening but no accident.

John Hunter said...

It strikes me this result is more appropriately seen as the outcome from a changed system. Granted this is an extreme case. But the system that has tolerated ever increasing bad sportsmanship has moved the system so that bad results occur frequently.

It would be interesting to see a plot of the number of times players, coaches or spectators push, hit and throw things at referees over the years. And look at the instances of serious harm to referees. My guess is that there is a very strong correlation between tolerating bad behavior and that behavior escalating to what should be unacceptable levels and tragic levels.