Saturday, March 08, 2003

Sports&Culture File

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The faint outlines of a Major League Baseball team are beginning to appear in the Great Northwest. There are sketches of a 40,000-seat stadium, the beginnings of a $350 million financing plan and prospective sites featuring grandstand views of Mount Hood. In the three decades since baseball was last played in Washington D.C., the sport has awarded franchises to seven other cities. And now, as baseball proponents in the District and Northern Virginia attempt to seize what may be their best opportunity to return baseball to the nation's capital, yet another suitor, Portland, has emerged as the main alternative if baseball bypasses the Washington area once again.

Referees, umpires and other sports officials from pro leagues to the recreational level increasingly are under siege from coaches, players and a critical populace grown accustomed to a replay culture. A recent string of verbal and even physical attacks from coaches and administrators in pro and college games is exceeded by less publicized attacks in high school and recreation leagues -- two or three cases of physical abuse each week, according to the National Association of Sports Officials. ''It seems whether it's Little League or Pony League or just high school all the way up to the professional ranks, regardless of the officiating, there is just more abuse and verbal attacks than any year I can remember,'' says Dave Parry, the Big Ten's supervisor of football officials.

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