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Parents Behaving Badly    by Scott Gummer order for
Parents Behaving Badly
by Scott Gummer
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you have ever attended a Little League baseball game or coached youngsters in any sport, you'll enjoy this novel. In his debut as a novelist, journalist Scott Gummer captures the insanity of youth sports in this satire that takes you onto the field, into the dugout, and behind the scenes as lunatic parents and overzealous coaches nearly ruin baseball (or softball) for their children.

Describing the sport as it is unfortunately conducted in some places today, Gummer describes the situation and the youngsters thusly: 'They showed up for tryouts looking like factory workers punching the clock. Sighs replace smiles. The game became more of a chore than a joy to play. Given the choice, kids might have preferred to mix things up, but they were not given a choice by Svengali coaches who viewed the desire to play other sports as a lack of commitment. Compounding the problem were high school coaches who ran the off-season pay-to-play programs as for-profit feeders for their varsity teams, as well as college scouts who increasingly focused their attention and recruiting efforts on All-Star tournaments and travel teams.'

The main character of the story, Ben Holden, is the son of a well known, highly respected, high school baseball coach who has recently passed away. When he was young Ben shied away from playing baseball because he didn't wish to play for his father so he has ambivalent feelings about the sport.

When his sons want to play Little League, Ben reluctantly says yes since he knows he will be drawn into the sport in some capacity. Of course, his son ends up on the team of one of the worst, egocentric coaches in the league, whose treatment of his players defies description. (Actually, Gummer does a pretty good job describing it!)

When the coach goes too far and is relieved of his duties, Ben agrees to step forward and finish out the season. Not only does he make the game far more enjoyable for the players and their parents, but he also comes to appreciate his father's ability as a coach.

There's plenty of humor and even a touch of playful sex (these are adults acting badly!) in this novel. What makes it most interesting, though, is that as a send-up of fathers seeking glory through their children, Parents Behaving Badly is right on the money.

Scott Gummer definitely hit a home run his first time at bat. The question now is does he return to the dugout to rest on his laurels or immediately step up to the plate again?

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