In a world in which every aspect of life seems to be measured with a political yardstick, why should high school football be exempt?
The National Federation of State High School Associations published their latest survey – and it shows that student participation in football has fallen off in some states and increased in others. This led some observers to note that the significant increase in participation came in states like Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Utah – red states. More specifically, these were states carried by President Trump.
Virtually every state that was carried by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saw a decline in participation since 2008. The exceptions were Nevada and Washington, D.C.
Nationally, participation dropped 9.5 percent even as the population grew 7.5 percent. In those Republican red states, however, participation dropped 6.1 percent, while in those Democrat blue states, participation plunged 15.7 percent.
So, what should we make of these statistics? I say … nothing.
Of course, those reporting these as politically related are intimating some sort of causal relationship. They are also guilty of the classic fallacy in logic known as “post hoc, ergo propter hoc.” It is assuming that two coincidental events are causal and responsive. As my logic professor explained it: If a comet crosses the sky and shortly thereafter a nearby volcano erupts, the primitive man might draw a connection that is invalid.
In the case of modern sports, our collective “primitive man” are all those observers and analysts who see political causation – especially when it comes to President Trump — in all human events. Their minds are so obsessed with the politics of Trumpism that they cannot imagine a reality that is not influenced or caused by the current political climate. They find a trail of logical lapses to lay blame for every unfortunate event – or any event that can be twisted – at the door of the White House.
Notwithstanding the rise in participation in red states, the overarching accusation is that Trump is killing off sports – especially football. Granted, he has expressed his concern about the rising level of injuries and delayed brain damage found in people who played contact sports at an early age. This has been a rising concern long before Trump descended the escalator in Trump Tower.
President Obama weighed in with his suggestion that he would not want any son of his playing tackle football. The alternative being proposed by many parents and organizations is flag football. My youngest son played flag football all through his K-8 schooling. He took up tackle football in his freshman year in high school and suffered a knee injury during a pre-season practice that ended his football days
The more likely reason that states like Alabama, etc. have an increase in the number of students playing football is the culture. These are states in which college football is even more popular than the NFL. Getting on the Alabama team is a dream come true for many young athletes.
It is most likely the growing awareness of delayed brain injuries that is reducing participation in some sports. As one activist noted: “if you kept hitting your kid in the head hard enough to cause injury, you would be arrested. But if you let another kid do it, we call it a sport.”
If there is any political activity that can be related to the lessening in the popularity of tackle football – and even other sports — it could be called the Kaepernick Effect – the politicization of the playing field by players with an agenda apart from winning the game.
So, there ‘tis.