The End Of A Tradition?
According to a November 10, 2005 article in the Washington Post, a fall tradition, the Friday night football game at the local high school, is suffering some hard times. The article, "Friday Night's Lights Are Going Dark: Football Game Violence Imperils a Rite of Youth," indicates that our society is, in effect, surrendering to the strong-arm tactics of a very few:
"This week, after the accidental shooting of a 17-year-old girl at an Oct. 28 game, Annapolis High School has moved its traditional Friday night homecoming game to this afternoon. At tomorrow's homecoming parade, marchers will reach the City Dock and then just go home. The game will have already been played.An inset in the above-cited article provides the following chronology:
"The cherished ritual of Friday night high school football -- hot chocolate, marching bands and blankets under the lights -- has long been as sure a sign of fall as the changing of the leaves. But this season, a series of shootings and stabbings during and after the games threatens to upend the tradition here and across the country....
"Before this fall, the last fatality at a high school football game was in November 2003 in Sugar Land, Texas, according to Trump's database."
Aug. 19 Miami: High school student shot to death in stadium parking lot.According to the article, parents are scrambling to rearrange their schedules in order to take their children to the games, and some teams are playing games without any substantial number of spectators:
Aug. 19 Morrow, Ga.: Student and a spectator wounded in a parking lot.
Sept. 2 Anchorage: Student charged with attempted murder after shooting wildly in a parking lot before a game.
Sept. 9 Racine, Wis.: Two students suffered minor gunshot wounds near a game.
Sept. 9 Edmond, Okla.: School band member shoots into the air after a game.
Sept. 16 South Salt Lake, Utah: Teenager fired at a school bus after a game, injuring one person.
Sept. 17 Decatur, Ga.: Two males shot outside a game.
Sept. 23 Silver Spring: Teenager stabbed to death in a parking lot after a game.
Oct. 7 Richardson, Tex.: Student shot to death during a fight after a game.
Oct. 28 Annapolis: Teenager shot in the thigh at a game.
"School officials in Anne Arundel County have rescheduled remaining Friday night games this year for times when fewer people will attend. Games have been played at twilight, on Saturday afternoons and, in the case of today's Annapolis contest, after school on a Thursday.Athletic events such as football games are an important part of the lives of both the team members and their families and friends. Perhaps the saddest part of the change in the schedule of games is the following:
"The kickoff times are wreaking havoc with schedules. Parents have had to take time off from work. Referees have had to shuffle assignments. The new varsity game times have affected junior varsity teams, which now play at odd hours. Coaches are grumbling about lost revenue at the gates and concession stands; attendance was off by one-third at last Friday's Annapolis game.
"'I had to get off two hours early to come to the game,' said Sheree Brown-Queen, a juvenile probation officer who was at the Annapolis game Friday to cheer nephew Justin Brown, a Panthers safety."
"A former Annapolis High School cheerleader, Brown-Queen said she remembers seeing her mother in the stands at every game, and she intends to do the same for her nephew: 'It's important to kids to see people there at the game who support them.'...
"It was definitely quiet when the Mount Vernon Knights played their oldest rival, the New Rochelle Huguenots, said Ric Wright, Mount Vernon's coach. 'There was no one there except for the police,' he said. Players had to help the referees move the down markers. Mount Vernon ultimately lost, 40-16, despite its theoretical home-field advantage.Why are these events having such problems? Again, according to the article:
"New Rochelle students learned their team had won only after the game was over, in an announcement on the school intercom.
"'Everybody just kind of looked at each other,' said Eileen Fener, 17, a New Rochelle senior who had planned to attend. 'Nobody cheered. Nobody knew what to do.'"
"High school football is a magnet for violence, according to coaches, principals and security officials. In many suburbs, the game is the biggest event in town on Friday nights. It draws an audience far beyond the school community, a group that sometimes includes members of gangs.And what measures are being taken?
"Team rivalries can fuel tempers. A packed stadium provides an ideal stage for committing a violent act and then slipping into a crowd....
"School officials in both Anne Arundel and Montgomery have tightened security in response to the violence. Montgomery had to contend with two deaths within a week. In the second case, a 23-year-old Germantown man was beaten with a miniature baseball bat a block away from a Sept. 16 Seneca Valley High School football game. It is unclear whether either the victim or the suspects in the case attended the game, said schools spokesman Brian Edwards.Even those of us who are not loyal fans of high-school football are the losers as our communities enter crisis-management mode. Our society is allowing gangs, thugs, and bullies to steal something of inestimable valuable--the sense of community spirit. Once gone, that sense cannot be restored by throwing more money and extra security officers at the problem.
"Additional police and school staff members have been assigned to remaining games in both counties.
"No tickets are being sold after halftime at games in Anne Arundel, and no one who leaves the stadium is allowed to return. Starting most games at twilight means 'we're going to be able to look at them and eyeball them as they're walking into the stadium' to better judge who might pose a threat, said Roy Skiles, assistant superintendent of Anne Arundel schools."