"A high-school teacher...is a person deputized by the rest of us to explain to the young what sort of world they are living in, and to defend, if possible, the part their elders are playing in it." - Emile Capouya, Literary Editor of The Nation, 1970-1976.
This past weekend, the Naples (Fl.) High School football team, the reigning state champions, blew out local rival Estero High School 91-0. Naples did pretty much everything they could to keep the score down save taking a knee: 4th-stringers, straight-ahead running plays, burning clock. Some of their starters never even saw the field.
It isn't that Estero is some small private school. Their enrollment reaches almost 1200, and recently three of their alumni have seen time on NFL rosters.
Like some programs do, Estero fell on hard times and ran into a finely-tuned contender.
In Columbus, OH, the Beechcroft Cougars beat up Centenial High by the score of 96-0. Beechcroft led 55-0 after one quarter and the Beechcroft coaches asked the refs to remove a late touchdown to keep the score under triple digits.
The thing is, shutout massacres like this aren't rare in high school at all.
In Tennessee alone this past weekend, Alcoa beat Oliver Springs 62-0, Memphis University beat Cookeville 42-0, Pearl Cohn beat DeKalb 50-0, Sweetwater beat Wartburg Central 49-0, Sullivan South beat Sullivan Central 42-0, Wayne County beat Zion Christian 42-0, Whitehaven beat Hamilton 53-0, and South Pittsburgh beat Whitwell 82-0.
While parity is mandated and organizationally supported at the professional level with gimmicks like the salary cap, and recent measures have levelled the playing field in the college game, such concepts seem foreign at the high school level.
Junior, face the harsh reality: 99.9% of the time when David meets Goliath the former winds up pounded into dust particles even if Goliath handicaps himself.
The NFL is, quite possibly, the least "realistic" sports league on the planet. Socialist manipulation has kept the talent level relatively equal across the teams over time, keeping the number of embarrassing blowouts down and giving everyone a change at the title within four to five years (well, unless Matt Millen is in charge).
In the NCAA, one-sided games happen more frequently, but devices like scholarship limits have increased parity there as well, meaning Georgia Southern can still put up three touchdowns against Georgia.
In fact, this entire season, only nine games involving FBS teams have ended in shutouts where the victor scored more than 40, and only four of those were between FBS teams.
But high school? That's real, Junior. All across America teenaged football players learn a wonderful life lesson, that sometimes the Warren Buffets of the world meet homeless people and, despite all intentions to the contrary, bulldoze them.
And who came up with this perverse system that sends numerous young teams to the proverbial slaughterhouse?
We did. You, me, our parents, and Marty the Milkman. The NFL is the domain of millionaires and advertisers, while career administrators run a collegiate world fueled mostly by high-money boosters. But these high school systems, these schedules and leagues that see the Napleses playing the Esteros, find their ultimate origin in school board meetings and local referenda.
We as a people decided long ago that we wanted to have high school sports to teach our youth about pride and teamwork, to show them that all those stories about two-a-days building character might be more than fluff, and to give them a productive activity that represents the community.
Given that most citizens in general - much less students - would trade any academic achievement for a playoff-caliber football team, any lessons coming from the football team are a huge plus. Be it learning physics from watching a linebacker smash into a wide receiver or philosophical inquiries regarding the nature of manhood, football affords an outstanding opportunity to actually teach our youth lessons they blow off in history class.
One of those is that, yes, sometimes you walk into a lose-lose situation for the slim prospect of winning. Sometimes you face people who just can't win. Navigating complete and total imbalances of wealth, status, etc. is important for all parties a free and capitalistic system. Furthermore, understanding the unwritten tenets of society is often more important than grasping the written laws.
Knowing how to act when factors outside of your control force you into such a position or call for use of tacit manners and customs is essential towards being a fully-developed human being.
Of course, many parents ignore this and hypocritically call out the coaches for various imagined mishaps. The Naples coach, for example, received calls and e-mails from not only angry parents of his opponent, but also parents of his own players wanting their kid to play more and for him to run up the score.
Were that many points really necessary?
Why didn't you pass the ball and get the quarterback some experience!
You should be ashamed of yourselves beating someone so bad!
Hypocrites, all of them. We as a community set up systems like this because we as a community agreed long ago (for better or worse) that football was a worthwhile endeavor for educating our youth. The more manipulation encroaches into the high school game, the more it comes to resemble an NFL parity-happy fantasyland (and much of the garbage that goes with it) and the less it can actually teach our children.
Because, Junior, here's the thing: if your company is being squashed by its competitors, there's no savior to move them to a higher bracket or handicap them. You will go out of business. If you are against stiff competition for a job, they will not disappear to "better" jobs or handicap their resumes.
And on the flip side, rubbing in battles already won does come back to haunt the once mighty.
This is why it's so important to have quality individuals running our high school sports programs, and given what I've read about the two involved in the Naples-Estero game, I'm fully confident those young men have fantastic role models at the helm.
Naples head coach Bill Kramer did everything in his power to stave off annihalation when he knew it would happen, while Estero coach Rich Dombrowski looked solely inward towards his own team.
Once I myself played on a baseball team that was losing 22-1. Our pitcher had just walked two batters to drive in another run and the opposing team's coach called his star leadoff hitter over. Three pitches in a row, the star leadoff hitter lazily swung at balls well outside of the strike zone. Our coach was livid and yelled at the other coach for sandbagging and not playing the game the right way.
I learned a valuable lesson from that, and I firmly believe that those on the winning and losing ends of such blowouts in high school football can learn the same types of lessons from their elders.
Blowouts and letdowns, booms and recessions, are a part of life. Knowing how to manage and react to these situations is key and the more we move high school sports towards being an exercise is socialist fairness rather than a real-life lesson in Darwinism, the more real life learning opportunity we rob from our youth.
It's reassuring to know that at least in one American city, we have wonderful "deputies" setting a model example for our youth, at least in this instance, instead of crying foul at every opportunity they've been "wronged" somehow.
Almost anyone could have coached Naples to a 90+ point win. But how many would have done it with class and dignity while making less money than most truck drivers or bartenders?
That's precisely why high school football is the way is, why 91-0 blowouts are fantastic and not offensive, and why good high school coaches (and teachers) are worth their weight in gold.
(The Associated Press article "Fallout Over 91-0 Score Affects Two Florida High School Teams," The main OSU Buckeye message board (bucknuts.com, about the Beechcroft-Centenial game), were consulted in preparing this article.)