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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

Losing Football

September 30, 2014

I hate to tell you this, but sooner or later we're going to lose football.

In saying this, I don't mean losing a football game. I mean lose football as a sport, both on the local and national level. We're not there yet, and it may not be soon, but we're going to lose the sport sooner or later. The seeds are there, they just haven't reached full growth yet.

Last week there was a rather histrionic article in Time magazine about a kid who died from a brain injury while playing football. That article showed pretty clearly which way the wind was blowing.

Now, I don't want to imply that the death of this kid isn't a tragedy for him, his family, his friends, his teammates, and his school, because it is. But it would have been just about as big a tragedy if he'd been walking down the street and a car ran off the road to hit him. After all, the kid was playing football. He and his family should have known that there was a risk to it -- a relatively small risk, to be sure, but a risk. If he and his family hadn't been willing to take that risk he shouldn't have been on the field in the first place.

Among other things, the article was, of course, calling for more and better head protection, which is to say thicker, more expensive helmets filled with exotic, high-tech materials. But the real intent of the do-gooder, nanny busybodies is to kill off football by whatever means, fair or foul.

Oh, it won't come all at once, by some big piece of omnibus legislation from congress before the congresscritters get back to their real business of stabbing each other in the back and trying to get their sticky paws in the federal till. They are smart enough to realize they may lose votes if they try that. No, it'll be buried in small print somewhere in seventeen hundred and seventy-six pages of regulatory agency enabling legislation.

But what that means is that football is going to be nibbled to death by ducks, a little bit here, a little bit there. Shorter games. More rules. More restrictions. More expensive helmets. This little bit or that little bit of safety gear -- it's only a couple of ounces, but an ounce here, an ounce there, and all of a sudden the kids are wearing another thirteen pounds of gear.

When I was a kid, if we wanted to go somewhere, we hopped on our bikes and went. There are places where you don't seen many kids on bikes these days because this or that or the other niggling law means that they have to wear helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and so on, and so on. The kids don't want to bother with all that jazz. They'd just as soon stay home and play their video games. The same thing is happening with football.

And then there are the idiots who say that kids shouldn't be allowed to feel inferior because of losing at a sport. Everybody should be the same, everybody should get a medal. (You think I'm being sarcastic, don't you? Think again. These are the same morons who came up with "no child gets ahead" -- er, I should have said, "no child left behind.") Oh, football is all right, they will probably say -- so long as no one keeps score. Eventually they'll hammerlock some regulatory agency, and the do-gooding nannies will win another round from the rest of us.

A little bit here, a little bit there, and it all adds up. It will slowly become more troublesome and less fun for a kid to play football, and many will say "Why bother?"

Don't fool yourself. It's happening. There's a good reason that the local team only had twenty-four kids at photo day this fall. I remember times when there were twice that many. Oh, yeah, there are a lot of reasons for that, but they all add up to the same thing.

In time many small schools won't be able to support an eleven-man football team. Maybe they'll have to go to eight-man football -- which is growing in popularity because a lot of small schools can't support eleven-man football any more. Then, maybe six-man football. Then, well, somewhere along the way, someone will say, "Why bother?"

Let's not even get into the subject of insurance costs, other than to say that insurance companies are in the business to know when they can get away with increasing rates.

Need I point out what happens to the college and pro sports when there's no longer a high school feeder system?

The time will come when some kids will be out in a park or vacant lot or back yard someplace, throwing a ball around and having fun, when some busybody neighbor calls the cops and complains because it's illegal for kids to be playing football.

Eventually the only football games may be by classic football re-enactors, just like there are small groups today that re-enact baseball played by old-time rules. It'll probably be played by touch or flag rules because people will have forgotten how to tackle and block. There may even be cheerleaders wearing classic short skirts and happy attitudes. People will say, "They must have had fun back then, but wasn't it a lot of work for what they got?" and "Boy, I wouldn't want to do that."

We will have lost something important, not just football, but in spirit.

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