*Column updated after Thursday’s news conference by the AHSAA.
The importance we place on football in the Deep South has always been potentially dangerous.
Concussive hits to the head can cause brain damage, for example, but for many years players were taught to lead with their helmets in the name of toughness and physicality.
Players are encouraged to fight through injuries, and have surgery at the end of the season. Smelling salts were once commonly used to clear the fog after hard tackles. Paul Bryant earned fame with the brutality of a training camp so legendary and severe that it set a standard for devotion to suffering. The seriousness of this “game” we call football is ingrained in us like the tenets of a deep faith.
That reverence for football is how illogical decisions end up being made like the one handed down by the central board of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. They say football can be played during a pandemic even if disease experts have determined school to be a public health risk. Is that decision madness, or just a reflection of what we value most as a society?
The board and AHSAA director Steve Savarese are supposed to be serving in the name of public trust. Well, maybe they are.
With that perspective in mind, who really can be shocked by Wednesday’s news that football practice can begin next week even while entire school districts cannot meet together for in-person learning for many more months? Ironically, the AHSAA’s decision to sanction football and other extracurricular activities was made during a meeting with everyone wearing masks and socially distanced.
Certainly, football coaches can figure out other ways to engage young people for the next few months while we try and beat back this pandemic with social distancing, masks and clean hands.
We don’t need high school football to function as a society during a pandemic. It is not essential. School is essential, and we’re having a hard enough time with that at the moment.
Football and other high school sports and after-school activities can wait until, you know, the kids are actually allowed to safely return to their classrooms.
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