School has begun, and fall sports are well underway. Kids and parents are pumped in hopes of seeing their child score that winning touchdown or place in cross country, and the excitement of fall activities offset by the brilliant colors and balmy days creates idyllic memories. Kirtland athletics is no different.
Football is huge in Kirtland, and understandably so. The tiny school with a powerhouse football team has earned the number one place in Ohio for the last two years, and the community has every reason to be bursting with pride. Friday night football in the small community draws so many people that, in order to find a place to sit, fans must arrive two hours ahead of time, and even then seats are at a premium. The party atmosphere spreads to area parking lots, where people tailgate as if it’s a Browns’ game, and the jubilation engulfs the entire community. We all are proud of our Kirtland Hornets.
Last Friday, however, I wasn’t so proud. We were able to squeeze into a prized spot on the fifty-yard line, where we watched as our team began to cream Villa Angela-Saint Joseph Vikings, a football team that I can remember being formidable when I attended high school eons ago. Our team, however, was quick to score against them in the first quarter and continued to do so up until half-time. I’m not a sportscaster, so I can’t provide minute-by-minute description, but it was fun to watch, at least at first.
During the first quarter, the Vikings desperately tried to break away and return the ball, and during one play, the quarterback was sacked. Behind me, several excited dads began to chant, “Take him down. Break his legs.” I was horrified. This is supposed to be good, clean, fun competition between schools but ceases to be recreation when it becomes more like war. I understand how excited and dedicated to football parents can be, but I seriously question their values and the modeling they are doing for their kids when they encourage their kids to try to hurt someone. I worry for this generation if their parents tell them it’s ok to try to “break their opponents’ legs”.
This fan behavior has been around for a long time. My husband played football for Kirtland in the ‘60’s, and he relates how his coach would tell them to aim for a bad knee or foot, and we’re both disturbed that this behavior still exists to this day. We’re supposed to be evolving and becoming better, and encouraging our kids to hurt someone else’s child is not.
It’s fine to encourage our Kirtland Hornets to hit hard and fast and to be aggressive, but let’s not encourage them to break bones or otherwise try to “take them out” in the real sense of the word. Winning, to me, is not so great unless it’s done fairly and skillfully.