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JOE BIDDLE: Soccer ref's death makes you shake your head

Our world is filled with news. Some good. Some bad. Some makes you shake your head.

We lost five American soldiers to an IED blast in Afghanistan last week. It barely made the nightly news and was placed inside on most daily newspapers. 

An NBA player who is near the end of his career and currently has no contract decided to publicly announce he is gay. Sports Illustrated made him its cover story, as did many other news outlets. President Obama called him to congratulate him. 

Reporters and other athletes hailed Jason Collins as courageous after he became the first professional player to announce he is homosexual. 

Ricardo Portillo died in Idaho after being in a coma for a week after he had been sucker-punched in the head at a youth soccer game. Portillo was a 46-year-old father and grandfather who enjoyed officiating soccer games. 

It was a 17-year-old goalie that took Portillo’s life after he became enraged because he called a foul on him for pushing an opponent and gave him a yellow card. 

The suspect was initially booked into juvenile detention on suspension of aggravated assault. A district attorney announced Monday he would levy additional charges on the teenager as Portillo died as a result of the blow to the side of his head. 

His death magnified the lack of respect that some of today’s youth have for authority. Arguing with Portillo wasn’t enough for the teenager. He had to strike a deadly blow. 

Sometimes we let ourselves become out of control during sporting events. There’s not enough money in the world to pay me to get sideways with a soccer mom. They might not know all the rules, but they know in their minds that the officials are for the other team and are probably paid under the table if the right team wins. 

Ever see a little league parent go berserk? These are kids 12 and younger playing baseball. Often times the parents are the ones acting like 12-year-olds. 

Usually their wrath is directed toward the umpires, specifically the home plate umpire because he makes most of the game-changing calls. 

I’ve seen parents yell and scream at umpires, at coaches and at their own kids. I stopped attending little league games long ago. I hope it has changed. I fear it hasn’t.

I wouldn’t think Ricardo Portillo woke up that morning thinking he would face death at a youth soccer game.  

“We will miss him at the soccer fields. He loved the game and loved doing his job. Ricardo always had a great sense of humor and loved being in the service of others,” said league president Mario Vazquez. 

Some of the blame has to go to parents and their behavior at youth sports. They see Mom or Dad going nuts in the stands, how do you think the kids will behave when they become the parents? 

If only they could see just how immature and foolish they look and sound when they act like spoiled brats, many of them trying to reclaim their own athletic inadequacy through their kids. 

The dead soldiers knew their risk included death. Jason Collins understood his risk of being the first. Ricardo Portilla had to die to discover the risk. 

“It was his passion,” Johanna Portillo said. “We could not tell him no.” 

Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee and a 2013 inductee to the Tennessee Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

Posted on: 5/9/2013


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