Little Falls has a losing high school football team.  It’s gotten so bad that representatives of the Little Falls Community Schools are making a move to have Little Falls removed from the Central Lakes Conference, where the team is consistently outmatched by larger schools.

In the Morrison County Record’s report on the situation, comments by School Board member Karen Idstrom piqued my interest.  She said, “The program needs a strong commitment from the kids to succeed.   . . . Some of the interested kids attended summer football clinics for a few days, then would quit.  Those clinics were set up to teach players, among other things, how to prevent injuries.  It’s not just the kids who need to commit, but the parents and the community, too.”

Let me commit a little heresy here, but, if we are having trouble getting commitment out of the players, parents, and community, why don’t we just drop football as an activity?  Oh, sure, I know, it’s the All-American game and what self-respecting school would be caught dead without a football team?  But think of how few people benefit from playing football, from being the ones out on the field participating.   When it comes to the handful of actual participants, you can figure that most of them won’t play the sport for much more than a few years after high school, if that.

Now, let’s compare football to the arts in terms of numbers of participants and the potential for life-long learning.  The arts encompass everything from music to the visual arts to dance to theater to literature.  Taken together, far more students are able to directly participate in these areas than in football.  (I’m not counting participation through viewership in either case, but direct, hands-on experience.)  Further, most of these fields see participation long past high school and college.

With the exception of literature, which tends to be a part of the core English curriculum, think about how quickly the arts get dropped from the basic school curriculum, let alone as extra-curricular activities, when there is a budget shortfall.  It doesn’t make sense when, on the basis of reaching the greatest number of students, we favor football over the arts.

So, I shall stand by my heresy in suggesting we should do away with football if the interest is not forthcoming.

Waiting to be tackled,

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

For more on the impact of the arts in Minnesota, there are several studies posted on the Minnesota State Arts Board’s website.