Wednesday, January 30, 2019

waning high school football?

For many decades, high school football has been a feelgood American institution. The sport provides pride and entertainment in small towns and big cities alike, inspires films like Varsity Blues and Friday Night Lights, and produces the next generation of stars in college football and the NFL.

Yet as fans prepare to gorge on beer and guacamole while watching the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the sport is eroding at its roots.
In China, I once read, the grades of outstanding students were published and ballyhooed in local news media, while in the United States, football (not the soccer one) standings and hopes and pride were to be found on the sports pages.

Football participation has dropped among high school boys over the last five years
High school sports with most boys participating (w/ five-year % change)

Football (-4.7)
Track & Field (3.3)
Basketball (2.4)
Baseball (2.6)
Soccer (11)
Cross country (8.4)
Wrestling (-9.1)
Tennis (0.6)
Golf (-5.6)
Swimming & diving (0.5)
Guardian Graphic | Source: National Federation of State High School Associations
There's too much money to be made, so football is unlikely to dissolve. There's too much pride/testosterone, so football is unlikely to dissolve. There's too little else, in many instances, for communities to rally around, so football is unlikely to dissolve.

Once upon a time the barrier-busting American black tennis player, Arthur Ashe, wowed 'em in the stands. Upon retirement, I once read, he traveled the country lecturing young black men about a life in sports as a means out of poverty: Ashe's argument was that there were a TOTAL of six thousand sports jobs in the country and the likelihood of landing one of them was slight ... so ... get an education.

Testosterone and prowess being what they are and kids being as they are ... well, I'm not holding my breath.

Education/prowess ... it's not easy to overcome long-standing male and female habits and swagger and strain and who's top-dog.

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