School is about to start up again, and that also means . I grew up in the southwest, where the thing to do on Friday nights was to attend the local high school football game. People went to games at the high school they graduated from, or just whatever school was closest to their home. Kids met each other at the game to socialize, but so did parents and seniors.
Everybody went to the game. It was not uncommon to see cars driving through the streets decorated with school colors. On Fridays people who grew up in town wore a shirt, sweater or letter jacket from the school they attended. We knew the cheers and the fight songs.
It is so different these days. Most families that I know don’t attend their local high school for games, unless they are the parents or siblings of a student-athlete.
Why is that? It is fun, it is a bargain, and it’s a good way to meet people. My guess is that we have become too addicted to our TVs, videos and computers. It used to be that there was “nothing to watch” on television on Friday nights. The hit shows were on other nights of the week because people were out on Fridays.
Now you can get whatever you like, whenever you like “on demand”. We live in a virtual world instead of getting out into the real world.
I’d like to challenge everyone to go out to your local high school for a football, water polo, basketball, soccer, softball or baseball game once in awhile. (There are lots of other sports, too, but these are very viewer-friendly.) Look for some folks in the stands that seem around your age and start up a conversation. It is easy to talk about the game, or the neighborhood, and make new friends.
Last fall Menlo-Atherton High School rented stadium lights so that they could play their Homecoming football game on their home field. The made an effort to inform the neighbors, and guaranteed that the lights would be shut off by 10:00 pm. Still, certain neighbors filed a lawsuit against the District to prevent the lights from being used. The game was hastily rescheduled to be played at , which has permanent lights on the field.
What a sad situation. Did the suing neighbors give any consideration to the students and their rights to use the field? These people moved into their homes knowing that a high school was nearby. Are lights and cheering (and, yes, traffic) on a few Friday nights such bad things?
I admit that I am completely on the side of the student-athletes on this issue. I think stadium lights are good for the neighborhood. (I live in a neighborhood where the local soccer field lights are on just about every night.) It keeps people healthy and doing positive activities. The neighborhood is engaged and the number of people on the streets means that it is safe to walk the dog or walk to a local store. It offers an opportunity for people to be spectators at a free, or nearly free, event. And if you don’t like the noise and the lights, then go out for the evening and come back at 10:00 pm. Surely there is a way to create a reasonable compromise.
Many studies have shown that high school students who participate in sports are less likely to get involved in drugs, gangs, and other undesirable behaviors. They are required, by league and school rules, to keep their grades up in order to remain eligible to play. They learn team skills, work hard physically and mentally, and dedicate themselves to long-term goals. They stay healthy and make productive use of their free time.
Shouldn’t we be cheering for these outcomes for our young people? Shouldn’t we be encouraging this healthy behavior instead of suing to shut it down?
Let’s hear it for “Friday Night Lights”!