The Oct. 4 school board meeting at which was publicly discussed the status of the investigation into allegations of illegal recruiting and false residency of football players, was not only frustrating to witness, but also embarrassing. And I’m not talking about the board of education. I’m talking about the parents and residents and other 50 or so attendees of the meeting. The way they behaved, the personal attacks they made against the board, the sheer insularity with which they approached this issue was embarrassing. Embarrassing for them, embarrassing for our community.
It is embarrassing because, in the end, football is only a game.
Its advocates say it develops strength, character and integrity, and teaches young boys the meaning of teamwork. I’m sure it does. But when there are accusations that a football program is acting not just immorally but illegally, then to defend it, to say winning at any cost is more important than ethics, than morals, than fairness, than regulations and codes and laws, than the damage a negative adult influence can have on impressionable youth — and even apparently more important than academics — that is not only misguided but dangerous.
At the Oct. 4 meeting, there were numerous attendees who clearly, and vocally, cared about nothing other than a winning football team and season, regardless of how or why it happened. There were others at the meeting, players’ parents, who were so blinded by their love for and pride in their sons that they also saw everything as an attack on their kids, on their team and on their winning season.
Is this really what our community has come to? Do we care more about winning a game than about right versus wrong, honesty versus dishonesty, accountability versus selfishness?
It is painfully obvious that the school board was deluged with complaints — 63 complaints, Superintendent Phil D’Angelo revealed at the meeting — and was obligated to investigate. How could it not? If it did not, and the district was sanctioned by Section III and the team’s season dramatically affected, then all the people currently calling this a “witch hunt” against the coach and the team would be up in arms demanding to know why the district did not investigate.