Tuesday, March 04, 2008

High School Football - An Immoral Activity?

Sunday night, I was all looking forward to a new episode of King of the Hill (one of my favorite TV shows). My trusty Tivo knows this is one of my favorite programs so it faithfully records it.
I love my Tivo.

WELL! I plopped down last night to watch it and most of the 30-minute time slot was filled with The Simpsons. Apparently, a stupid sports game of some sort had run overtime and shoved all the programming up about 20 minutes.

I was SO mad. Usually it’s football games on Sunday that mess everything up. (Even I know football season is over with right now.) But why do football broadcasts get top priority over everything else? The president’s State of the Union speeches barely get to do that.

Don’t the network people know that some of us have never actually seen an entire football game and love King of the Hill? (It's ironic, but Hank Hill would find it incredulous that I've never seen an entire football game)

This brings me to a cause near and dear to my heart. If ever I was going to crusade against anything it would be the banning of high school football. I would be the Madalyn Murray O’Hair of removing football from public schools.

“What?” you say. “No high school football? That’s un-American!”

Okay. Here are my reasons. Pay close attention.

It’s Dangerous: For those of you who have ever been to a high school football game, I don’t have to remind you that in just about every game, a time-out is called. A sudden hush falls across the crowd and necks crane while an injured player wallows in agony on the field. Finally, he gets up and the crowd applauds as he’s helped to the sidelines.

According to a survey by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, 39 percent of all high school football players were injured during one year. To make matters worse, the majority of these injuries were sustained during football practice, not during games. Thus, even the benchwarmers are in jeopardy of being injured.

It's ironic that we have all these measures in place to protect school kids, yet it seems perfectly acceptable for students to participate in an activity where over a third of them will be injured. If a third of all students taking chemistry were expected to be injured, would that be tolerated? Not for a moment.

Why should the safety of so many students be otherwise tolerated?

It’s Violent: What’s there to say about a lineup of huge guys that are encouraged to aggresively slam into each other as hard as they can? Yes, they wear protective gear, but the very nature of football is intrinsically violent. If a 250 lb. student performed the same action off the field, he’d be convicted of a felony.
Think about it. . .

Why should felonious actions be school sanctioned?

It’s Sexist: True, there’s nothing prohibiting a girl from participating in football but we know that’s simply not the case. A hugely unequal amount of school revenues are spent on an activity in which only boys participate.

Case in point: A small town near where I grew up is known for its notorious football program. There are about 500 students in high school and that school employs twenty-two football coaches! Yes, those coaches taught other subjects but from my experience, I can’t recall even one football coach who was a halfway decent classroom instructor.

This school had ONE coach for the girls. Only one.

And don’t even get me started on the cheerleaders. All across Texas, the most attractive (and might I add, underage) girls in skimpy outfits jump about, largely for the voyeuristic entertainment of the male spectators.
That's pretty twisted!
Don't believe me? Imagine the uproar if the cheerleaders began wearing pants.

Why should public school participation blatantly cast favor on the male sex in the 21st century?

It’s Elitist: Are any other students in school idolized and worshipped as much as the football players? Every small town in Texas has a well-attended “Booster Club” to support the football players. Booster Club members avidly decorate the yards of the star football players every season, hardly unlike elderly Catholic grandmothers decorating statues and graves with their flowers and rosaries.

During pep rallies, the football players sit high on an “altar” in front of the student body.

If ever there was a widespread cultic religion in Texas, a theological anthropologist wouldn't have to search far before finding it. High school football stadiums appear thirty miles apart in a 500 mile radius from the center. A town of five hundred souls in the bowels of west Texas can be practically destitute, uneducated, unemployed, with the ubuquitous tumbleweeds blowing across Main Street. Yet, silhouetted on the town's edge will be The Football Stadium, standing like a great pyramid; a desparate, gasping monument to an illusion of pride and identity.

I remember the annual parade in my home town. There would be float after float exhibiting the various football teams. First, there’d be a float with the pee-wee football players, then one with the middle-school players, then the 7th grade, the 8th grade, the freshman, the junior varsity and then (the crowd lets out a huge cheer) the Varsity Football Team! Oh my God! Modern day gladiators, they were.

It’s a shame that good grades aren’t encouraged as much. After all, it's infinitely more admirable (and difficult) to achieve straight A's and B's than it is to bash into another player really hard or to carry a ball across the line.
Where are all floats carrying the pee-wee honor students?
Is it a wonder that “Johnny can’t read?”

It’s a waste of tax dollars: As I said before, a hugely disproportionate amount of tax revenue is spent on the football program in any small town in Texas. That nearby town that had twenty-two coaches; guess how many music teachers they had?

Two. One for band and one for choir. Oh, and that was for grades K through 12. (Actually, I think they only had one, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here).

Yet no expense was spared on the football program. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment were available. There was a huge stadium, only for football. Don't forget the twenty-two coaches on salary. And, believe me, small-town Texans have no problem, whatsoever, in paying higher property taxes to support a local football program. Really high property taxes. These are Republicans who hate paying taxes but when it comes to property taxes that benefit the local public school football program, all tax-paying principles are out the window.

So, let’s put all this into perspective. Let’s say that things were different and football wasn’t king, but rather, it was the girls’ chorus that everyone was nuts over. (No boys allowed)

Every Friday night, the entire town would descend en masse to the huge, state-of-the-art concert hall to hear the girls sing. Every girl, from the moment she began kindergarten, dreamed of making the Varsity Chorus. Half the faculty members are voice teachers for the girls. The mascot of the girls' choir is emblazened everywhere, including on each city limits sign ("You are entering Beguine Territory!") Every year, over a third of the girls would sustain injuries, but their safety was seldom considered or acknowledged.

And before each concert, the best looking (and underage, I might add) boys would perform in skimpy outfits for the titillation of the female spectators.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?
You bet, it does.

I hope I’ve made my point.

Now, if King of the Hill is ever cancelled again because of a live football game, the Madalyn Murray O’Hair in me will be, indeed, addressing the Illinois State Legislature.



At 12:39 AM , Blogger Kimberly Ann said...

Well said. There are many things amiss with public school sports programs. I don't know if I would say throw the whole thing out the door, but a major overhaul would be in order. And I too love King of the Hill. Dale is hysterical.

At 2:53 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

(clap, clap, clap)

At 11:32 PM , Blogger Iwanski said...

OK, I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I agree.

I'm not against football, but it should be an outside-of-school activity. Just like Little League baseball.

Sports should never take a dollar away from an academic or arts program at school.

At 7:09 AM , Blogger Citymouse said...

Ummm I think cowbell's daughter plays football. But I agree with you. I know a great attorney who is a huge man and choose piano over football in high school. He is asked to play where ever he goes and is happy to do so..he tells me the guys who played football are never asked to do so now (45 years later) and if they were -- they couldnt!


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