in Commentary

Something to think about when considering how much the game of football has changed over the last 50 years, going from the chalkboard basics to hi-tech game plans

I have heard coaches say that winning football games is all about Xs and 0s, running, blocking, and tackling. I’m sure that’s true, but having the athletes execute the Xs and 0s is key to winning football games.

The athletes today have a great advantage over the kids only 20 or 30 years ago in that they are larger and faster and have their eyes on higher goals. The mindset of young players today seems to be quite different from youngsters in the past. In the 1950s and 1960s, most kids played just for the fun of it; after all, it’s just a game. This game has evolved into something quite different.

Our kids today play on artificial turf; they have the latest and safest equipment, and the coaching and training techniques have morphed into the latest sports medicine. Athletic injuries have taken a much higher priority than in past years. I’ve only recently noticed that the old white rolls of athletic tape are no longer in use. Do they still use “Atomic Balm” and “Stick’um”?

Many high schools have state-of-the-art indoor practice facilities; some smaller schools are still stuck in the 1950s; larger school districts definitely have a financial advantage. What we consider “gifted” high school athletes today have their own websites showing their stats and videos that display their abilities.

They have watched themselves play on video from an early age and take for granted that they will be digitally recorded for posterity. And those recordings usually start in Pop Warner football and junior high school. They have already achieved in high school what most kids of earlier years only dreamed about.

I played five years of college football, and I only remember four or five of our games that were filmed. And they were, of course, in black and white 16-millimeter film. We had a local radio announcer broadcast the game, and that was about as exciting as it got. I played with guys that have said just hearing their name called over the PA system was reward enough. I remember black-and-white sports TV interviews for the local news and local sports writers detailing the game afterward.

I guess things were pretty dull back in the day. My personal perspective of the game goes back 70 years. The game’s rules, equipment, facilities, media coverage, and coaches’ and athletes’ perspectives are quite different from the time I remember. Today, athletes have color videos of every game they play. Are our kids today what we call “privileged?”

Are we spoiling our young athletes? Are there dangers out there we don’t see yet? Will young athletes end up asking, “Is that all there is?”


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