Halfway through the high school football season, there’s a reality to what we’re watching that few admit to publicly. That the empty seats we wrote about recently have nothing to do with the football, itself. Rather, it’s the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
I realize that there are many who believe like my grandmother, who always said, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
She was talking about people, of course…that if you can’t say something nice about someone keep your thoughts to yourself. But it’s not always people, and I dare say that there’s many who believe…if there’s anything you don’t like you just suffer in silence! We learn from birth, for instance, that you don’t talk about religion and politics.
But there’s another realization that does beg discussion as to why so many kids are choosing not to participate in sports this fall – why schools are leaking athletes, and the culture of thinking that promotes it. I wrote about it in our recent September 19 column on empty seats under the Friday night lights. Readers responded, some of which we shared in last week’s ‘Reader Speaks’ post.
And this past weekend – this past week – there was more response from readers who were more than a bit concerned about how, and if, we get the numbers back – kids playing sports, and people in the seats to watch them.
A reality! A lot of them question the current culture – inflation, the economy, and a general change in social priorities. Some ask…are we even giving kids a chance to just be kids?
“I’m sad about things that I didn’t used to feel,” said one writer, from here in Miami County. “I played sports to have fun. It was encouraging. But it’s not encouraging now when you see barely enough kids to have a team.”
Some point to the topics we hear daily on the evening news. The cost of things, and fear about whether it’s safe to even leave the house, even in the smallest communities.
“It’s hard to trust. You don’t know if you’re safe, even out in the country,” wrote a reader from Gallia County.
The economy, gas prices, and the feeling that things are generally upside down are making people speak up…who have NEVER before spoken!
“Kids got a job during Covid and got out of the habit of playing sports,” from an email following that September 19 column on empty seats. “They want money.”
It’s true. Some now choose to work because they have a car and a phone, and the household budget can no longer support that. Parents say…get a job. So kids are working because there’s plenty of jobs, particularly in some smaller, rural districts. They make money instead of playing football – different priorities. Not every community, of course. But enough that you notice.
That person wrote. “Cash spends. Standing on the sidelines and waiting for a chance to play doesn’t put gas in the car.”
Traditional priorities are on trial, with uncertainty over what comes next. While some preach renewable energy…most favor renewing strong communities and traditional values; of how do we get back to a predictable standard of living and a predictable future?
“I can’t raise a family and run my house the way we’re headed,” a neighbor shared recently. “‘Progressive’ doesn’t make sense when you can’t make progress at home.”
Other issues would make you sad, as that writer suggested – forgiveness for college loans that means sharing the cost of paying back money you didn’t borrow; progress that doesn’t make sense when it stands in the way of progress at home.
All of this casts a shadow on things taken for granted – traditions, even sports and the people who used to watch.
“I don’t go to games because I can’t buy a ticket at the ticket booth,” wrote another to last week’s ‘Reader Speaks’ post. “If you’re a senior citizen it’s not that simple to go to a football game – not that easy to buy a ticket with your phone.”
But it is to a teenager, who’s choosing whatever means necessary to pay for that phone. Culture has won them over…which only adds to the fear, and uncertainty for the future.
Grandma wouldn’t like it. People with little good to say.
And they’re more willing to say it…than they’ve ever been before!