The other day, my son brought home an English assignment where the teacher had asked the class to generate some rules for succeeding in life. These are the rules my 12-year-old son thought up all by himself: do your best, be nice, and don't act like Homer Simpson.

Actually, I think it is a very good thing that my son does not want to act like Homer Simpson. I think this proves that he has received a lot of quality "parenting" over the years. Don't you? Now I only wish that I would stop acting like Homer Simpson, especially at sporting events where I usually turn into (as Homer says) "a clod" who tries to pick fights with other people as well as steal their food when they're not looking.I've always been a badly behaved spectator. I remember once when I was about 10 years old I decided it would be a very cool idea to PUNISH and also HUMILIATE the University of Wyoming football team for beating BYU by dumping my little box of crackerjacks on them as they victoriously trotted off the field. With this brilliant plan in mind, I broke loose from my poor mother, ran as fast as I could down the stadium steps and FLUNG caramel corn at the Wyoming sidelines. The only problem was that it landed on and stuck to the highly coiffed hairdo of the lady right in front of me.

Surprised to have popcorn sticking all over her hair, she looked up at me. "I missed," I said to her by way of explanation.

"Yes, Darlin'," she observed in a Southern accent, "I guess you did."

So anyway I was a jerk then and I'm a jerk now, although I have been trying very hard to change ever since that night last winter when I humiliated another one of my sons while watching him play basketball.

My son's team was an assortment of junior high boys - short, tall, round, skinny, skilled, unskilled, black, white, Hispanic, Polynesian - who hadn't made the school's "A" or "B" teams but who wanted to play together anyway. The best you could say about them was that they were "scrappy."

Still, I enjoyed watching these guys play - until the night the team from Valhalla showed up. As you'll recall, Valhalla was that place in Norse mythology where all the tall, blond gods with superior basketball skills hung out.

Anyway, this opposing team of junior high boys strode into the gym wearing their matching warm-up suits and carrying their matching bags, followed by their tall blond parents who were comparing notes about all the awards their children had won that week. I'm not kidding. One of the moms who sat down next to me (she must not have realized I wasn't a sister Valkyre) was telling everybody within earshot how her fifth-grader was one of ONLY SIX CHIL-DREN IN AMERICA who'd been selected to go to Russia and have breakfast with Boris Yeltsin. Or something like that.

So (as you can tell) the team from Valhalla got on my nerves right from the start, and things didn't get better once the two teams took to the floor. Basically the Norse gods trampled all over my son's scrappy "C" team and didn't even break out in a sweat while doing it.

Finally, out of sheer frustration, my son grabbed one of the large Norse gods by the jersey and actually threw him to the floor. Naturally, he was penalized, at which point I stood up, applauded heartily, and yelled "THAT'S MY BOY" with so much pride that you would have thought he was having breakfast with Boris Yeltsin, too.

Anyway, everybody in that claustrophobic little gym (including my son's coach and also the ref) paused to stare at the grown woman who had just disgraced herself. And I could tell that my son (even though he's very grateful I gave him life and so forth) was wishing I had never been born.

That's when I decided to turn over a new leaf and start behaving myself at games. It's not that I don't yell anymore. It's just that I yell everything in French, which, as everybody knows, is the traditional language of diplomats. That way I can sound diplomatic while I'm ACTUALLY BEING INSULTING. For instance, saying, "Vous etes un nincompoop" sounds so much classier than saying "You are a nincompoop."

I also think it works better to shout "Vous avez I'aire du fromage du Roquefort!" than "You smell like Roquefort cheese!" See? Isn't this a great idea? So in closing, I have only one thing to say to the opposing team: "Le neener, le neener, le neener!" And I mean that in the politest possible way!