I know this is Texas. I know folks around here hold the game of football in the highest regard. But I’m going to bring to light some things that I think not just a few people should consider, because Texas people are supposed to be some of the most independent-minded people on the planet.
Now, so many of us have the unquestioned opinion that playing the game of football is a supremely edifying experience. Many say it teaches the virtues of mental toughness, discipline, dedication, commitment, perseverance and forbearance. I’m not denying this, but is football the only way to learn these things? You can’t learn them elsewhere?
Of course you can. You can learn them at work. You can learn them by digging ditches, pouring concrete, building fences, setting studs plumb, milking cows and performing a multitude of tasks that build upon themselves so that, when a young man has been doing them for 10,000 hours, he may come to possess a set of highly valued skills that could sustain him for the rest of his life. That is no exaggeration.
I think of the 10,000 hours of my life playing college football at Rice University in Houston. Since those years of playing (1994-98), never have I had to power clean, squat, bench press. I’ve never had to block a linebacker or reach a defensive tackle. I’ve never had to do so many of the things that I had to drill incessantly for in order to become an All-American, and I wonder what was it all for?
Then I think of high school football. I may have spent upwards of 5,000 hours drilling and practicing for that experience. Do you see where I’m headed? Do you see how a man could consider it a waste of time to spend 15,000 hours learning skills he will never again use the rest of his life? Do you see why he thinks it may have been a whole lot more profitable to be exposed to 15,000 hours of real-life work experiences during his younger days to open his eyes for the rest of his life?
I know I learned a lot, but that does not mean I could have learned a whole lot more.
Back in the day, when life was simpler, harder and maybe better, it would have been unconscionable to hard-working fathers to allow their sons to spend none of their non-schooling hours learning to fix, repair, make and create all the necessities of life.
It would have been unconscionable to think it good that a man spend 15,000 hours learning to play a game and then, at age 22, start learning to work. The simple fact of the matter is that all the hours a young man today spends learning sport skills — from middle school to high school to college — are undeniably lost opportunities to learn those other more valuable skills that make a life and a nation prosper.
Am I crazy for wondering about this? I don’t think I am. I know I’ve had this conversation with lots of good folk of the Texas Hill Country, who know something about making life work with their hands, and they seem to all agree.
I’ll end this by being perfectly blunt: sports have become a mania. Mommies and daddies thrust little Johnny onto the field on the hopes that he’ll become the next Johnny Football (Tivy High School’s own Johnny Manziel). But do you realize about 2 in 1,000 high schoolers who play college football make it to the NFL? Don’t get your hopes up.