Southlake Carroll has a stinking good football team. Since moving up to class 5-A in 2002, the Dragons have gone 80-1 and won four state championships. If they beat Northwestern tomorrow night it’ll be Carroll’s 50th straight victory, breaking the all-time consecutive wins mark set by Abilene High in 1954-57.
But about that game tomorrow night…
It’s on ESPNU. National TV, sorta. It’s at SMU’s Ford Stadium in Dallas. And it’s against Northwestern High School from Miami, Florida. It’s the mythical nation’s number one team against the mythical nation’s number two team in a showdown that’s being hyped and plugged like a BCS game.
This is the fourth straight year Carroll has played a game on national TV. Over a hundred media credential requests have been put in. High School Football in Texas has become a national industry with regular coverage in USA Today and Sports Illustrated. ESPN is televising 16 regular season high school football games this season and Fox Sports Net is broadcasting over a hundred.
At Carroll, and at other big name traditional powerhouse high schools with successful football programs, expectations are high. Through the roof high. National athletic wear brands are bidding for uniform rights. National soft drink companies fight for pouring rights. The money is flooding in in ever-increasing amounts. The stadiums are getting bigger and the practice facilities are getting nicer. The teams fly in chartered jets to out-of-state, made for TV matchups. Coaches angle for and get higher paying and higher profile NCAA jobs. The players are being wined and dined by college recruiters as 14 year old freshmen. Football money is being used to fund other school programs, a lot of them academic programs.
They’re just 15-17 year old kids.
What, if anything, are we losing here? Are we trading anything in for the exposure and the money and the recognition?
In 2004 a football dad walked into the coach’s office at Canton high school and shot the head coach, a former defensive coordinator at Mesquite, because his son wasn’t getting enough playing time. The man’s sister publicly defended his actions by calling him a “concerned parent.”
In that same year, two high school football stars in the panhandle were arrested and charged with assault on the afternoon of a state playoff game. Two boosters bailed the boys out of jail and had them at the stadium at halftime. And they suited up and played. One scored two touchdowns. The other had a bunch of tackles and an interception. And they won.
The team Carroll is playing tonight, in my opinion, should not be traveling out of Miami and most certainly should not be playing on TV. Bulls running back Antwain Easterling was arrested and charged last December with “lewd and lascivious battery” against a 14 year old girl in a high school bathroom. According to court records, coaches and principals and counselors covered it up so Easterling could play in the Florida state championship game. Easterling ran for 157 yards that day and Northwestern won the state title. But since then, an investigation has led to several indictments and the firing of 21 coaches and counselors who knew of the assault but failed to report it. Northwestern’s football team has also been placed on one-year probation. But apparantly that probation doesn’t keep the Bulls from flying a jet to Dallas for a nationally televised football game and all the publicity and hype and money that go with it.
What are we trading here? How much is too much? What’s the message to these 15-17 year old kids about priorities and what’s important and what’s not so important? And, on a broader scale, what’s being communicated to society and accepted as normal?
The monthly Four Horsemen lunch is actually going to be a four day trip to Abilene for the annual ACU Lectureships. Dan and Jason have always gone. Kevin, I think, has made the trek a couple of times. But I’ve never been. And when we made our pledge to have lunch once a month as soon as I moved back to DFW, we also made the ACU Lectureships a priority.
And I can’t wait.
My time with my dear Christian brothers is always excellent. I’ve learned so much from Kevin about dreaming big and setting lofty goals and believing that God has in mind much more than I do. He believes in me more than I do. Kevin motivates me.
Dan has taught me so much about seeing the Kingdom of our Father in places I never look. His view of Jesus’ church as it relates to loving and serving Christian brothers and sisters living on the streets and in run down apartment complexes comes straight out of the teachings of our Savior. Dan’s passion and action for people challenges me.
And Jason shows me how to live the Word. He’s in it. In depth. Constantly. He talks it. He walks it. He is a godly man with godly principles and a godly focus. Jason inspires me.
We’re leaving from my house at about 9:30 Sunday night because Dan’s never been able to say no to a free breakfast in Abilene. And we’ll stay for all three days. The focus of the lectureships this year is on the Prophets. And I’m excited about that because I see gospel preachers as prophets — spokesmen for God. But the prophets of Scripture had such a close relationship with God, always talking to God, always being spoken to by God, always in communion with God, that they saw what God saw and felt what God felt. The same compassion God has for his people, the prophets felt. The same injustice God saw, the prophets saw.
And I long for that same vision and pathos of my God. I want to see the things he sees and feel the way he feels. I want sin to grieve me the way it does my God. I want poverty and inequality to break my heart like it does God’s. I want to have his joy and his sorrow and his viewpoint on everything. That’s the Scriptural picture of the prophets. And it’s one of the things I pray about every day. I’m confident this experience in Abilene, featuring some of the best teachers and preachers in our brotherhood, will be very encouraging and uplifting for me.