Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Game of the Century

Growing up in East Texas, few things excite me like Texas high school football.  Scenes depicted in movies like Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues, though a bit over the edge, capture the passion, pageantry, and poignancy associated with this rite of Autumn.  

I attended a high school that exhibited many of the traits of the fictitious West Canaan, Texas of Varsity Blues and the real Odessa of Friday Night Lights. On Friday nights, Atlanta shut down and residents, clad in maroon, packed the local stadium.  From 1984 to 1999, I missed one Atlanta football game and in 2003 I saw my beloved Rabbits capture their first state football.  From 2003 through 2005, I worked for the Internet’s largest website devoted to Texas high school football, covering the East Texas region and attended many games across the state.  Needless to say, I think this gives me the credentials to critique this game I love.

All week long, the Dallas Morning News published stories concerning today’s showdown between Highland Park ( one of the states most tradition rich programs with names like Doak Walker and Bobby Lane) and Marshall (another tradition rich program that boasts Y.A. Title and was briefly spotlighted in the aforementioned Friday Night Lights).  In the Texas high school playoff system, governed by the U.I.L., opposing coaches come together to mutually agree on a neutral location or flip “hone-and-home” to decide the venue for a game.

Many East Texans feel the key to beating D/FW schools involves getting them out of the Metroplex, so a proposal that would have set the game for Texas Stadium was nixed. The Marshall and Highland Park coaches failed to agree on a location, so a coin-flip ensued.  Marshall won the toss and chose Rose Stadium in Tyler, Texas, to host this state championship game.  While aesthetically pleasing, Tyler’s Rose Stadium seats only 15,000.  State championship games in Texas routinely draw over 30,000 and Highland Park’s 48 year title drought added interest among the Scott’s faithful.

It took mere hours for both schools to sell their allotment of tickets.  Stories of frustrated fans served as the top story in the Dallas Morning News and on local television stations. Fans auctioned off tickets to the game for $500-$1000 a piece on Internet sites. Finally, the schools agreed on a proposal for television coverage and Sirius satellite radio picked up the game for nationwide broadcast and the controversy appeared to die.

However, I woke up this morning to find a page 3 article in the Dallas Morning News, regarding State Representative Dan Branch’s (R-Dallas) attempt to hold public hearings on the way in which the site for state championship games are determined.  I agree with Mr. Branch that the system currently used represents “a broken system,” but our state legislature has bigger problems involving our high schools.  

Currently, the Texas education system stands on the brink of financial ruin.  In fact, Mr. Branch admits, “this makes school finance look like a minor issue.”  I suspect members of the Texas legislature dream big when considering the power they could have over high school football in the state.  State representatives like Mr. Branch know all too well the profits generated by playoff games and seek to get their hands in on some of the action.

The News reports that Mr. Branch “leads a House subcommittee charged with finding revenue sources for schools…” Couple this with the corporate sponsorships picked up for the game (e.g. Wachovia Securities) and the $500-1000 ticket prices and you have the perfect cash cow based your school funding on—commercialization of Texas high school football.  National television broadcasts of Texas high school football games are not uncommon, but UIL rules currently prohibit the live broadcast of Friday night games.  Look for the legislature to next challenge this stance.  By allowing more national broadcasts, the legislature could unlock even more revenue.


Blogger a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

Right on. This follows the available technology. My son, HP defensive end 97-98, was able to watch the game via the Internet. He happens to be in LA. Rather than watch it in Independece Stadium in Shreveport, a stone's throw from Marshall, as we wouild have prefered, and I don't know if it can currently be played out of state, we watched on tv, didn't now there were seats erected at the last minute as end zone bleachers that Blackistone in the DMN refered to.

11:33 AM  

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