Last Friday, after an “important” Texas high school rivalry football game, hundreds of students lost their damn minds and rioted in a Whataburger. ‘Rioted in a Whataburger’—the phrase itself is so depressing, indicative of lives trapped in a suburban fishbowl. Watching the video of it, you might wonder: Why were hundreds of children (far above fire code) allowed in the Whataburger? Where are their parents? Could this aggression also be due to the long line for Whataburger’s famous whataburgers? Why is the Whataburger employee also punching children? And is this really over a game where buff boys butt heads?
It matters to me because this is my hometown of Plano, Texas, the place where a Whataburger became a writhing sea of babies trying to punch each other to death. And it’s another embarrassment for my city on top of the one a couple weeks ago in which a high school student bullied a special needs girl via graphic, threatening texts.
But while eliminating high school bullying entirely is tricky as children will always be psychopathic little goblins to some extent, this one’s easy: cancel football. Let’s start with the remainder of the season, and then see about extending it to PERMANENTLY. Yes, get rid of it entirely. Fire the coaches, set the equipment on fire, convert the fields into dog parks, and import hundreds of shelter dogs to live there. It’d certainly be a more sensible use of school funding than football.
Oh, I know it’s a difficult proposition, one most people would oppose. In Texas, where traditional masculinity is highly esteemed, high school football is not only relevant, but a religion. Fathers live vicariously through the players and leer at the cheerleaders, who, for their part, display requisite subservience to the patriarchy with performances praising their testosterone fueled gods. Even the nerd—that lonely, dead eyed husk—must play his tuba for their glory. This sends an implicit message to the student body about what qualities matter most: physical strength, athleticism, brutality. Physical dominance as virtue. Might makes right. Seeing as I am more skeleton than man, a frail creature barely clinging to life, I’m actively opposed to this (unless that upsets you; please don’t hurt me).
Following the brawl, Plano ISD administrators released a statement, saying, “As it did not occur at a school district facility, they are not investigating.” Meanwhile, the police said they would try to formulate a plan to prevent further incidents like this from occurring. But let’s be real here; they love it. They love it because football’s more fun to watch when the rivalry’s more intense, and what’s more intense than a Lord of the Flies style boyfight? Texans would love if they could finally drop the pretense of “teamwork” and “exercise” and just watch high school kids beat each other into bloody mush in an abandoned lot.
As for the Plano ISD, the rational response to this would be for both Plano and Plano West to cancel the remainder of their season (“Hey kids, if this fun athletic activity engenders hate and violence, we’ll simply abolish it.”). After all, only the willfully deluded could fail to see a connection between a game where children bash into each other and a Whataburger where children bashed into each other. Compared to the time when they banned all water bottles for fear someone might bring Secret Vodka to class, this sounds positively judicious.
Of course, it’s hard to prove a connection between football’s spirit of aggression and violence among students, but a recent Atlantic article tells of one Texas high school, Premont, that, against God’s will, cancelled not just football but nearly the entire athletic program. No more Friday Night Lights. Closed eyes, empty hearts, can’t win, etc. Children wept for this cherished insipid cliché of American Adolescence they would never experience, and some fled to other schools that still understood the ability to run real fast is as important as math. Nevertheless, in one year, administrators saw a drastic drop in school violence, from a fight every couple weeks to almost none, and passing rates, meanwhile, rose from 50% to 80%, almost as if there was a direct correlation between emphasis on athletics and declining academic performance.
And by emphasis, I’m partially speaking of funding allocation. People always bring up uniforms and padding in terms of sports budgets, but that’s a pittance compared to the bleachers (which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars); the coaches’ salaries, grass maintenance (which can be $20 thousand per year); referees; buses for the team, cheerleaders, and band; security (in case the riot starts before Whataburger); officials; substitute teachers if the teacher-coach is off at a game; and so much more. This isn’t paid for with concessions or ticket sales, not even close. Instead, the school budget mostly pays for it. You know, the money earmarked to educate our replacements so they don’t ruin the whole planet like our parents did? Yeah, it’s being spent on having children brain damage each other.
This might come as a shock, but I’ve never understood the appeal of football, neither the viewing nor actual participation. It is as mysterious to me as people who believe in astrology, enjoy Big Bang Theory, or shoot up krokodil. The brevity of the plays, the agonizingly slow crawl up and down the field, all leading inexorably to a binary result: win/loss—it’s so boring I want to cut off my own face meat and eat it, if only because it’d be exciting and the results would have real significance.
A ban on football, high school’s most expensive sport, would be a simple, commonsense step toward prioritizing education over activities that have nothing whatsoever to do with education. Only 3% of high school players end up playing in college, and only .2% make it to the NFL. But then again, those odds are definitely worth it if you don’t understand statistics because your high school’s obsessed with football.