Why is Football the Flagship Sport in Almost All Small Towns?
So why is football the one activity in almost all small towns that takes front and center stage, demanding a complete and total town loyalty every fall Friday night? Why not basketball or baseball or tennis? On the surface, this seems to be a very good question with many possible explanations.
Based on my experiences this fall, here a couple of possible reasons:
Football is very militaristic in nature. All sports in our modern society, to some degree, can trace its origins to some type of military connection. Olympic track events - running, jumping and throwing contests - were all tied to the military training of the day. But football seems to take it over the top. This has been a well-documented and controversial phenomena in our society dating back to the days of the Vietnam Anti War Movement and the then President Nixon’s fascination with football. Just look at some of the common terminology used in the sport of Football: defending the red zone, blitzing, our territory, the bomb, shock troops, reinforcements, battle of the trenches, attacking offenses and containment defenses; I could go on and on.
When it comes to town pride, football and its subliminal militaristic themes appeal to basic human survival needs. Football is a very physical game, and no matter how hard educational leaders try to temper the violence with the enforcement of on field safety rules, it will always be a very physical and to some degree, a violent game. We are sending forth the best of our young men to battle the best of the nearby tribe (town). Our city boundaries must be protected. Community pride is deep rooted in community survival. The enemy is at the gates and we must be protected, entrusting our young men to give it their all in fulfilling their sacred duty. Think of this the next time your team runs on the field with the school flag in tow. There is something that appeals to our alpha male instincts that the bragging rights of “we kicked your ass in football,” transfers so much better than and appeals to civic survival so much deeper than “our doubles tennis team smoked yours.”
Couple the above with the fact that football has no Title IX counterpart; and I think the reason for football commanding the community’s emotional loyalty comes more into focus. Title IX has over 40 years dramatically, with Federal judicial backing, transformed one half of our society ? females ? from spectators to participants. Basketball, volleyball, softball, track, cross country, tennis, golf, swimming; and to an ever increasing degree; even wrestling; every high school sport with the exception of football, has an alternative outlet for females that demands as much, and at times even exceeds the attention and resources giving to the male counterpart sport. This for good reason is called progress.
But somewhere, maybe buried deep in our subliminal thoughts, chivalry still lives. Our daughters play a role in the Friday Night Light’s pageantry carried out with such religious fervor in small towns across this nation; but their role is more in line with the Plantation mentality of the long ago past. The role of girls in the fall Friday night weekly festival is relegated to subservient tasks: cheerleaders, drum majors, flag girls, marching band members, managers and statistic keepers.
I found the above to be true the farther south I traveled. Football is the one stage the hated Feds have not been able to touch; either through legislative or judicial mandates. For many years the guardians of Title IX tried and every once in a while you will still read of a female high school football player- the homecoming queen who kicked the winning field goal - but it has been relegated to more of a man bites dog abnormal interest level story than one of the norm.
In the second decade of the 21st century a sort of truce seems to have been declared between the political correctness watchdogs and small town high school football; it’s almost sacred chauvinistic place on society’s mantle for the time being safe.