August 17, 2012 11:03:49 AM
Tonight marks the beginning of the high school football season, and it appears as though the weather will conspire to dampen, quite literally, the enthusiasm that generally adorns the occasion.
The forecast is not encouraging, although local TV meteorologists are hopeful the heaviest rainfall will have ended before the games begin.
The rain, or the prospect of rain, may just be a convenient way to explain away what is likely to be sparse turn-outs for many of the games in our area. With a few exceptions, crowds will be small and will consist primarily of a small portion of the student body, parents of players, band-members and cheerleaders and some teachers, administrators and staff.
On Thursday, we asked our Dispatch readers in an online poll if they planned to attend a game tonight. Seventy-six percent answered no.
The answer most assuredly would have been much different if that question had been posed 30, 40 or 50 years ago.
Over the past few decades, high school football has somehow lost its appeal to the community at large. What once was an event that brought the community together has become little more than an afterthought.
The most popular explanation is that there are many more entertainment options today than there were 30, 40 or 50 years ago. But it is a flimsy argument, at best.
A far more likely explanation is that people just don't care, which is a pretty strong indictment, because the issue goes far beyond a high school football game on a Friday evening.
Football games have always been a pretty good barometer of the community's relationship with its schools. Without fail, a community that packs the bleachers on a Friday night is a community that supports its schools in far more meaningful ways. Likewise, good schools are a powerful indicator of a healthy community. The relationship is, indeed, symbiotic. Empty bleachers are a symptom of a greater illness: Indifference.
More and more, the community's involvement with its schools seems to begin and end with criticism -- criticism of lazy kids, lazy parents, lazy teachers, lazy administrators.
But no one ever seems to consider the lazy community. Somehow, those people get a pass and bear no responsibility. There are those whose commitment to their schools is limited to the tax dollars they are required to send their way. That's far too little.
What our schools -- and our kids -- need most is the support, encouragement and leadership that only a committed community can provide. It is not someone else's job to improve our schools. It's a job for all of us.
For weeks, teams and bands and cheerleaders have been working hard in preparation for the season which begins tonight. Those efforts deserve commendation.
The best way to demonstrate that is to show up.
Rain or shine.