By Rich Jensen
South Dakota now has seven high school football classes; rather, it will have seven in a year and a half.
This move has been widely ridiculed. One wag described it as appropriate for South Dakota, “the Land of Trophies and Ribbons for Everybody.”
Some have pointed out that only Illinois, Oklahoma and Tennessee have more high school football classes (8 classes in Illinois, 8 in Oklahoma and 11 in Tennessee).
The insinuation is that increasing the number of championships is harmful, somehow.
This strikes me as a bit absurd, and on two counts.
The first is that we’re talking about high school students here. Kids ranging in age from almost sixteen to somewhere short of nineteen. Do you remember when you were that age? How did your perspective then compare with your perspective now?
What do these championships really ‘mean’ anyway? It’s kids playing a kid’s game in front of their parents, their friends, and the editor of the Haakon County Weekly Feedbag. In the end, it’s something to paint on the billboard on the edge of town, or a trophy for the high school trophy case that no one ever really looks at.
It is curious to me that so much of this outrage comes from adults, some old enough to have kids in high school, others with kids in high school. If the kids have no real issue with an additional championship class, on what basis should we as adults get all bent out of shape about it?
Sure, some will argue that this represents a slide into a sort of triumphant mediocrity a Golidlocksian world where kids will be coddled and kept in some warm porridgy existence up till adulthood, at which time they’ll be tossed out—unprepared—into a cold harsh world.
This simply does not stand up to close scrutiny. There are 145 high schools in South Dakota. Currently, six championships are awarded. Increasing that championship count to seven is not going to result in a glut of kids wandering out into life thinking that just showing up qualifies them for a trophy, a parade, and a free dinner at the Sunshine Cafe.
The second reason why this strikes me as absurd is that the positive character traits associated with athletics have nothing to do with winning. Self discipline, healthy lifestyle habits, self respect, respect for others, respect for authority, humility—these quaint but valuable attributes, the ones generally marshaled in support of high school athletic competition, have nothing to do with who wins a game or who wins a championship.
The notion that increasing the number of championships by one somehow unravels the integrity of the game, that it represents another step down the slippery slope to communism or worse is absurd.
It’s an opportunity for a few more kids a year to spend a bit more time doing something that, hopefully, they enjoy doing, and where’s the harm in that?
About the author: Jensen was recently interviewed by Time, but he did not mention TVFury during the interview. Sigh.