I grew up in Clatonia, Nebraska. My parents drug me across the street to the Salem Methodist Church. I don’t know why, but for a kid those 45 minutes of church seems like torture. I hate to admit it, but I usually spaced out by drawing on the announcement sheet or daydreaming how the best-looking girl in school would beg me to go to the Homecoming dance with her (which, of course, never happened).
I don’t remember much from those 20 minutes of sermons that usually included all kinds of guilt-trip behavior I should avoid at all costs. I guess if I didn’t hear it, how could I go to hell for doing it? I do remember one thing the Methodist Minister said one Sunday morning.
His sermon was in the fall in front of about 60 devote parishioners and it was a rant about Nebraska football. He asked us why 62,000 fans could fill Memorial Stadium for three or four hours of football, but only 60 (and me) could show up to have their souls saved. It seemed like a good question to me and I had an answer, but I sure wasn’t going to raise my hand. Bob Davaney and his team sent fewer guilt trips than hell, fire and brimstone from the Methodist minister. I even heard the Lutheran minister was worse.
This past week there was a horrible violent incident in a Florida high school. Sometimes I wonder if we put enough priorities in keeping our kids safe in the schools. I have opinions, but I don’t want to start a political debate. I do want to relate it to sports and violence and priorities.
Some of my former athletes would ask the question, “Do you remember it?” In 532, probably the most popular spectator sport was charity racing. That year the Blue team raced the Red team in Constantinople. I don’t know who won; who cheated or did some form of cheap shot. Something happened because a fan riot occurred.
It was called the Nika riots. It was reported that 30,000 people were killed in those riots. No matter how competitive the sport is today, that kind of life loss is hard to imagine.
There have always been religious wars. The Protestants and Catholics or the Christians and the Muslims. I’m not sure this can be labelled a Mormon rivalry, but sports competition between Brigham Young University and the University of Utah has gotten out of hand.
It started way back in April of 1895. It was a baseball game against the two schools. BYU was then called Brigham Young Academy. A scoreless tie ended in a bench-clearing brawl. I don’t know about injuries or deaths, but the rivalry was on.
The next year, in April of 1896, a football game was played between the two schools. I don’t know who won or any details, but the fans had a real donnybrook of a brawl. Seventy years later, it was baseball between the two Utah based colleges that got out of hand. In 1966, a Utah batter intentionally hit a BYU catcher with his bat.
In the 1980’s, Utah was headed for a walk-off win when the runner decided to go out of his way to deck the BYU catcher. The runner was called out and BYU won in extra innings. My personal favorite is when BYU was heckling a Utah pitcher from the dugout. He went into the stretch, glanced at his catcher, and threw a fast ball strike into the BYU dugout.
Even in the Tour de France, fans beat up a French rider’s competitors in the Alps, allowing the French cyclist to win.
If you think about it, that Methodist minister was on to something. Priorities in the sporting world has made attending or participating in a sporting event is about of safe of thing as you can do. The security at collegiate and professional athletic contests is impressive. It’s not unusual to have to go through a medal detector, be circled with a medal detecting wand, remove your hats and put your cell phone in a dish for inspection.
Sadly, that kind of security isn’t a priority for public and many private schools. How can it be? The headlines are filled with more than school violence. State legislators are cutting budgets for schools at almost every state school and at every level. How can a school be expected to add security when they find it hard to add new school books?
Having been a coach all my life, I am very much in favor for increased pay for coaches. The million-dollar contracts for power school coaches fogs the real issue of underpaid coaches at lower collegiate levels and especially in the junior high and high schools. Coaches do most the work in preventing violence between athletes.
There are many arguments to be make. The one that baffles me in Missouri is gambling proceeds targeted for education. When has anyone heard of an increase of money for schools because they received gambling money?
There are answers that I don’t have. However, there are answers out there.
If you can go to 162 baseball games a year and feel safe, why can’t we find a way to make school students feel safe for about 180 school days per year? It’s time we gave those school kids the same priorities as athletes and their fans.