This week is high school football week number 7 in our part of the world. Yes, we know. If you check your calendar that means they started playing football before they started classes. It’s ok. Here, high school football (which should be capitalized but we have to draw the line somewhere) is a cross between a religion (please don’t tell the atheists) and life’s greatest lesson learned (please don’t tell the religious). We suspect “here” is a lot of places across the country. It’s a strange, strange thing.
We have nothing against organized competitions for high school and younger children. As long as one can tear oneself away from that crazy notion of “everyone’s a winner” that we try to foist on the youngest ones, any kind of competition is healthy and a necessary part of growing up. Here they not only tear away the football players from the idea that “everyone’s a winner,” they rip it apart, crush it, stomp on it, burn it, then bury the remains.
Last Friday night we were watching the 11:00 news. She of We watches so she can be attuned to the happenings of the world. He of We watches so he can read the football scores across the bottom scroll. “There’s another, 41-9! That’s the third 41 to something in single digits this week! Woah, look at that, 50 to 2! I bet the coach is going to have something to say about allowing a safety! 17-14? What kind of score is that? That’s better? Did you see that one? 64-12!”
Maybe that sounded a little more exuberant than it actually plays out. What amazes us about scores like that is not that there are so many of them but that there are any of them. School sports is a place to teach the children about competition and that indeed the world is a place where everyone is not a winner. But what happened to sportsmanship? What happened to “win with class, lose with grace?” For the winning team it’s just another version of “everyone’s a winner” only this version is “you’re always the winner.” It has the same end results. We’re creating a world where these young children when they become young adults are unprepared for conflict, discipline, and getting things right because they never had to. (See Your Turn to Keep Score, Jan. 16, 2012.)
In a sound bite world He of We heard the ultimate sound bite about all of this. In that same news cast with the scroll filled with winning scores in the 40’s and 50’s and the losing scores in single digits was one of 14-3. The two teams are “perennial powerhouses,” one a twice in a row district champion and on a 23 game winning streak, the other the runner-up for those two years. The winning coach was interviewed and asked what it was like after five weeks to finally have to make a decision in the fourth quarter? (Arrogance alert #1) He responded that he knew it would come back to him “when they got to play a good team.” (Arrogance alert #2)
We hope the players in the five teams previously beat by that “perennial powerhouse” go on to learn that not always being a winner doesn’t always make you a loser.
Now, that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you?