Last fall I joined my family in an outing to the IU-Purdue football game. It was great fun. This year we intend to gather again in Bloomington to watch the rematch.
Having children who attended each school and are loud and proud about their loyalties, my plan going forward is to wear the colors of the home team. That’s the least a dad who sent a lot of cash to each school should do, don’t you think?
Our new tradition bucks the nationwide trend of fewer fans at NCAA football games. According to statistics from the NCAA, in 2017 the average attendance at home games for Division I teams was 27,400, which was down by 1,100 fans.
Numbers are hard to find for attendance at high school football games. But I haven’t been to a high school game as a fan in years.
Last night was homecoming for Goshen and the city’s two state championship teams were honored for their great accomplishments. There was even a bonfire scheduled for after the game.
I liked hearing that. Growing up in the 1960s, in my hometown there was a large bonfire before every homecoming game. A giant pile of wood would be stacked on a cinder-covered access road to the football stadium and many of the people in the community would gather there to cheer the local heroes as the burning pile cast an orange glow over the crowd.
When my wife and I were first married, we attended a few football games at our alma matter. Then we drifted away as family and job duties grew.
When we moved to Goshen, Friday nights were for resting after long workweeks — until the kids began marching in the extraordinary Crimson Marching Band. During those years, the wife and I would sit in the stands and watch whichever offspring was playing a flute or tuba at halftime. Sometimes I would be by myself and drift over to the dad’s fence; you know, the chainlink fence between the seats and the concession stand where football dads gather to watch and shout.
Nowadays the football trend doesn’t look promising. In the wake of scientific studies and lawsuits that have proven football can cause long-term brain diseases, fewer players are taking part and fewer parents and grandparents won’t be buying tickets to watch their efforts.
That’s too bad. Football is a wonderful sport to play and watch, especially at the high school and college levels. The many positives of young men taking part in an organized endeavor that requires cooperative effort, mental alertness and a commitment to year-round fitness, is being eclipsed by the concussion issue.
I have no idea how severe this health issue will be on the sport in the coming decade, but my hope is that football organizations at all levels continue to make severe adjustments to the tackling techniques and game rules to reduce the incidents of concussion. The game most likely will be much different in the years to come. Maybe it will look similar to the sport I see played in old film clips from the 1940s and early 1950s when limited headgear and small shoulder pads did not allow players to make crushing blows to each other’s skulls.
Football should be a sport, not a violent battle. But no matter what happens, I will remain a football fan. See you in Bloomington.