By now you have probably heard about the high school coach in Texas who was formally accused of bullying by a parent of one of the players on a team beaten 91-0 this past Friday night. The game was between No. 1 Aledo and a school called Western Hills, which is obviously nowhere near a top ranking. Most of us that hear this story are going to have a similar reaction. We will ask ourselves, is this really the best course of action for a parent to take? And I think the answer to that question is pretty clearly no. By filing the formal charge all this parent did was shine a national spotlight on an event that was already humiliating enough for those involved.
However, while we debate the decision by the parent, I find myself curious about another issue. 91-0? How is that even possible? Such a disparity of abilities between two teams seems to be a total mockery of the sport and of the spirit of competition.
My first instinct is to criticize the coach of the winning team, and yet when examined more closely it is hard to see what he did that should draw rebuke. According to a number of published reports, he barely played his starters, barely threw the ball, and took no pleasure in the woodshed beating he was providing. It is difficult to say that he did anything wrong at all.
Still though, I cannot get over that score. I cannot help but think this game should not have been played. High school football has the opportunity to teach those that participate in it many lessons. Some of those lessons are learned in victory, and some are learned in defeat. Occasionally lessons can be learned in lopsided defeat, but I am afraid there is no value in a game decided by almost 16 touchdowns.
This story is interesting to me because there is a Western Hills in every state and in almost every county. There just seem to always be a handful of schools that cannot stand toe to toe with the schools with which they are supposed to be competing. In the rare moments when those kinds of programs find a quality player, he will almost assuredly bolt for a better situation the moment a spot at a new school opens up. And who can blame them for transferring? Who would want to play for a team that does not have a chance?
The coaches and administrators that are in charge of these kinds of programs have tough jobs, and they will never be as famous or as well-paid as many of the coaches you see each week on CSS. However, the role that they play in the lives of their players can be just as significant as their more well-known colleagues. In the case of Western Hills of Texas, the best course of action for those in charge of that program is to figure out a way to make sure that such an undignified outcome never happens again. To start with, that means creating an environment that attracts more players to the program.
In a few of the news reports about the game with Aledo, it was mentioned that Western Hills only has about 30 players. If that is true, then something is wrong.
Think for a moment how special the sport of high school football is. Think about the programs we broadcast into your living room each Friday night on CSS. Think about how many young men are clamoring to get on the field in those games to do what so many before them have done. For these schools, the magic of the game is on full display. It creates an attraction that draws those that come near it to fully commit themselves.
For the schools that do not have that kind of success, that magic is missing. But just because it is missing, does not mean it cannot be found. There are miraculous stories every year of transformation. New legends are minted every season by winning at places where winning was thought to be impossible.
My hope for the community of Western Hills and for the schools like Western Hills all over the Southeast is that there are men in charge of those programs that do not give up hope, and do not stop looking to provide hope to those that desperately need it.
The good news is, once the idea of hope is effectively communicated, there will always be more than 30 players who show up and a 91-0 score will not ever be a problem again.