I’ve got something to admit: I kind of like high school football. Like a lot of sports fans, I have had a complicated relationship with the sport. There’s been all the talk about concussions and serious injuries. I know I wouldn’t operate well under the typical coach/athlete relationship. There’s too much yelling, too much early practices, and those practices often smell terrible. That’s nothing to say off the issues at the college and professional levels.
NFL ratings are down this year. I, and many others, are not sure why. I think it’s probably a mix of lack of star power, gradual decline in interest, a presidential election, and a burgeoning mix of other entertainment options. (Except everyone wants to point to ONE THING. Also, if you think Colin Kaepernick is the reason most people aren’t watching, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.)
Which brings me back to high school football. Two weeks ago, I went to a semifinal matchup between Marshall and Benilde-St. Margaret at U.S. Bank Stadium. I met up with some old friends from the area and we watched the game together. Even though Marshall lost, it was without a doubt the most entertaining Marshall football game I had ever watched. Most of the games ended up as lopsided contests. This one was tied at halftime. It remained close until BSM ran away with it.
Even though I’m no longer a Marshall resident, it was nice to be out there supporting the team. I saw a few people I knew and I caught up with them. My high school didn’t have a team. I was fine with that, but our community was so small, so it was difficult to gain that bond that comes with watching a common event as a community. (Though we had plenty of other things.)
I think the reason I like high school football is that it gives people a reason to leave their houses on a Friday night. It forces you away from your screens and out in the community. You have to say hi to people and get to know other better. After the election, I’ve been trying to find some cultural touch points that people of all political spectrums can enjoy. I think high school football can be one of them.
I don’t know if I’ll let my hypothetical future son or daughter play football. I’m glad I do not have to make that decision just yet. I wonder if that decision will be made for me by the time I get that age. And while I believe that concussions and player safety are a huge problem, sometimes you just have to face a little bit of danger. Some towns have few things to rally around other than the football team. I don’t want people to lose those things.
I never was a fan of the letter jackets, the stereotypical football bullies, the smelly pads, or the whole enterprise in general. But now that I’m an adult, I can see the good in the game.