Friday, August 26

A NATION WHERE "SHAME IS ON PERMANENT HOLIDAY"

Back in May I published the second of two posts on the subject of high school football in Texas -- the "Friday Night Lights" state -- opining that:

The student-athlete isn't the problem in this equation. It's the adults who are getting it all backwards -- those who push for these extravagances and those who know it is outlandish to do so, but keep quiet and acquiesce their role in sending the right messages to young people about where the priorities should be. Adults should know better.
The "extravagances" I was alluding to were the number of new, multi-million dollar mega-stadiums being built by school districts in Texas (principally in Houston and the Dallas-Ft.Worth metroplex) for their high school football programs. That first post was based upon a story carried in the May 16, 2005, edition of "Sports Illustrated."

In that post I wrote:

And if you look at high school drop-out rates here in the Lonestar State, particularly in the state's many large metropolitan areas, you have to shake your head in disbelief that limited funding is going to the football programs, rather than to the classrooms. Scoring the touchdown on Friday night appears to be taking precedence in Texas over scoring well on the SAT (or even just earning a diploma).
I concluded with exasperation:

Now I tell you this because I wanted to establish my credentials of having been a successful high school football player in order to say this: these ritzy, no-luxuries-spared, grandly-touted, "state-of-the-art" high school football stadiums are ridiculous, totally unnecessary, and multi-million dollar monoliths built to showcase the poor choices that adults are making for teenage athletes -- athletes who are students first, and who, first and foremost, need an education to be successful in life.

I, for one, would rather see classrooms, lecture halls, science labs, and state-of-the-art libraries constructed and supplied, rather than taxpayers pouring their hard-earned money into "separate locker rooms for each team's offensive and defensive squads." What unadulterated nonsense. In my time, the "luxury item" that told you you had landed on the varsity squad was a "drying room." That meant your practice uniform was dried out and not still dripping wet with sweat from the morning practice during end-of-summer, two-a-day practices! My God, "instant replay" on a $900,000 scoreboard! It's all profoundly insane! I played in an era when high school football players didn't even get water during practices!
Now in this week's "Sports Illustrated" (August 29th edition), featured columnist Rick Reilly bowls me over with an egregious high school football scenario in Dallas, Texas, that really puts all of this obscene preoccupation with football in Texas in bold relief and in the process makes quite a comment about how amiss things are in America today.

As Rick Reilly accurately puts it in an appropriate indictment of today's sports' culture:

... in this country, where shame is on permanent holiday, there are bleachers full of football coaches willing to give youngsters facing six-count felony charges another chance. Especially youngters who are all-district ...
Reilly is writing about two teenage, Dallas-area high school athletes charged with six counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, one of whom is going to court and is out of jail on a $45,000 bail bond and the other of whom pleaded guilty and received 10 years' pr0bation and, incredibly, just a paltry 120 days in a work-release program.

To the credit of the varsity football coach in north Mesquite, Texas (east of Dallas), both players were dropped from the program. But, as Reilly writes: "Both players found new teams, no problem." One of the young men is now playing for Lancaster, while the other is playing for Dallas Skyline. The rationale for giving these miscreants a pass? Because in the opinion of their new coaches both are gifted enough athletes to have a chance at "playing on Saturday" -- i.e., going on to college football. So what? SO WHAT?

Reilly acerbically concludes, and rightfully so:

The Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi broke the neck of the Colorado Avalanche's Steve Moore in a flat-out, cheap-shot mugging, and he's back in the NHL even though Moore still hasn't returned to the ice. Texas Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers knocked a couple of cameramen around and was suspended for a crummy 13 games. Terrell Owens told his coach to shut up and called his quarterback a hypocrite, and he's back with the Philadelphia Eagles sans apology. Why should we be harder on our kids?
But, it's not just Texas. Sadly it goes on everywhere and is indicative of an "anything goes" sports' culture in which punks prance and adults betray their obligations to America's youth.

I was a 3-year varsity letterman in high school football and played on three consecutive championship teams. Unlike that high school in Lancaster where Brandon Jackson will be suiting up, we never had a wide receiver who ran his routes while wearing an electronic ankle monitor so the cops could track him. That sort of thing wouldn't even have been contemplated -- not by a coach, a high school principal, or a booster club.

SOURCE: "Sports Illustrated" print edition (August 29, 2005)

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