Football Is America
Author: Ray Vann
What is American culture? When most people think of things that are distinctly American, their mind goes to the stars and stripes, Sunday night football, and apple pie. But what if I were to tell you that in the future, if some have their way, one of these three things might become a thing of the past, only remembered but never seen again?
What I am talking about, of course, is football. As more and more schools continue to cut their programs in the name of player safety, what they are inadvertently doing is tearing away a piece of American culture from their students that has been a consistent presence in our halls of education for more than a century. Indeed, one only needs to scan the sidelines of the average high school or middle school game to really see just how powerful of a tradition this is. Young boys, cheered on by their fathers, grandfathers, maybe even great grandfathers, all of whom had played the game as well in their past and all of whom now watch, pride in their eyes, as the newest generation of their family takes to the field to carry on the tradition of representing their school on the field.
More so than this idea of tradition, football is able to unify classmates in a way that other sports simply can’t do. As author Kelsey Phariss says “being a fan of a certain football team gives you a reason to get involved in something bigger than yourself. You can sport your favorite jersey, go to a bar or store, and become friends with a complete stranger because you both share a love for a certain team.” This is even more true when it comes to the sport in schools. Students with other zero shared interests can find a reason to bond over their love of the sport and their passion for the team. When the team loses, we all lost together, mourning as a group, and when we win, the whole student body wins, cheering and attending rallies as one, no one excluded, the only prerequisite being that you attend the school.
In many ways, the team is something more than just the group of students who trot out onto the field each week. It is an embodiment of school spirit, and a focus for all students of every background to come together behind and cheer for. Everyone wants their school to be able to dominate their rivals, and football allows students to watch that very opportunity come to reality. Basketball, baseball, and soccer all might allow you to watch your teams take on the other, but none of them have that kind of intensity, that kind of exhilaration that can be conveyed only through watching the two sides do battle on those hundred yards of gridiron.
And then, of course, there is the underlying idea that football, in its own way, is the true embodiment of the American dream. You don’t need money, you don’t need your parent’s connections or to be born with a silver spoon to make it in the world of football. All you need is hard work, dedication, and innate skill and you too might be able to make it to the top of your craft. For proof of this, simply look into the life stories of so many players in the NFL today. I dare say that a large percentage of these men have inspirational stories of their own, building themselves up from the bottom, fueled only by their own perseverance and the drive to succeed. In this light, football can show our young men that with hard work and dedication, it is absolutely possible to achieve your dreams, and there is nothing in the world more American than that.
Football is America. The tradition, the sense of belonging, and the promise of success in return for hard work are all ideas that make this country great. Removing such an institution from our schools doesn’t make our children safer. What it does is it takes away something which, simply by participation, teaches our children some of the most American values there are, and taking this away from students deprives them of the opportunity to experience these values in action. An America without football might become a very different America, and it is an America that I, for one, do not hope to see at any point of my lifetime.