For many years now, ever since my kids played football for the East Hampton High School team, I have enjoyed going out in the autumn to watch the kids play. There was something wonderful about sitting up in the stands as our kids tried to beat the kids from the other schools. It reminded me of when I was in high school. The cheerleaders would lead us in chanting how we could hit them, stomp them, pummel them and bend them to our will. (One shudders to even write these words today). There’d be occasional injuries of course, but coach would have them walk it off. The kids would tackle, pass, run, dive, scramble, kick.
In the stands we’d drink a cold beer as we watched on warm September Saturdays, or we’d drink hot chocolate and bundle under blankets on cold November days. Afterward, the teams would trot off the field all sweaty and covered with mud and dirt stains and we’d go over to the locker room and wait for our kids to get lectured by the coach, change, shower and come out so we could offer congratulations if they won, or solace and maybe next time, if they lost.
I don’t mean to get all goopy about the good old days, but this past fall, there was no football at East Hampton High School because the parents of the kids were too scared to let their kids try out, is what I was told. So there were too few to make a team. If I’m wrong about the reason, well, it was sure to happen soon anyway. The school administrators are more and more changing things to protect, or overprotect in my opinion, kids so they are ill prepared to enter adulthood ready to face a world full of challenges that sometimes result in failures. And I am not only talking about physical challenges, but also mental challenges.
Here is a litany of recent changes that have come about in this direction in our community, or might come about very soon. Sometimes things get in the news because they are proposed, but then do not take place. It is hard to keep track of all of them. But in any case, they amount to an unmistakable trend.
Southampton High School no longer has a valedictorian. There is no very best student in the graduating class who will address the graduates at commencement. It’s too much for other students to have to bear not winning that honor.
Pierson High School is considering not allowing students to go to proms in a limo. Bad things can happen in limos. Instead they could be taken to the prom in their prom dresses and tuxedoes in well-lit school buses. And late at night, when the prom is over, the buses can take them back to the school, where the parents pick them up and make sure they are all right.
And there have been lots of suggestions—I’m not sure if any have been carried out—about abandoning the grading system here at some of our local schools. Getting a D might be too much for a child to have to bear, to say nothing of an F. One such proposal was on the South Fork, if I remember this correctly.
And there are reports from out of the area. A town in Iowa has banned sledding. I think a ban on snowball throwing is sure to be on the table soon. Somebody could get hurt. It could happen. Or they could be unpleasantly surprised. Who needs to be frightened like that? I would think that next we’d be banning kids rolling sideways down a low grassy hill to a flat area. It can make you dizzy doing that, and being dizzy can result in all sorts of problems, both medical and otherwise.
“Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of the school day is also under attack. There was an attempt to ban those words at a high school in Matawan, New Jersey, with lawyers saying they their client’s child should not have to endure that, since she came from a home of atheists. But a judge last week declared the chant a voluntary request, not a mandatory one. He also ruled that saying that “Under God” is protected as free speech and is not a violation of either the First Amendment or religious freedom. The kid should just remain silent. Or cover her ears.
Many schools in America have had to tear up the inlaid wood in their basketball court floors because they have had to change the kind of animal or minority group that they have chosen to vaunt their superior physical skills. There are fewer teams each year that dare to call themselves by names that might hurt other people’s feelings. But a team can go from “Killer Sharks” to “Thoughtful Scholars.” That works.
And what about, in basketball, the problem of “height?” Nobody seems to have noticed this. What is a kid to do if he is short? Or, to use a less offensive phrase, “vertically challenged.” Is it really fair that those who are not tall enough should have to endure sitting on the bench? Let’s just let them all go out and play. That way, everybody wins.
I foresee a day when our kids will go out and play football without a football, without an offense or defense, and without plays. Perhaps they should just get out there and socialize, share the plays, or maybe just THINK about the plays. The real issue, during a football game, should be interacting with and constructing social encounters to get along better with the other team. What better place to do that than on a football field? We can all drink to that. (With non-alcoholic beverages of course.)
I have to go now.