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Our cross country team is great but the only sport anyone seems to care about in the fall is football. Why is that? It’s...

Our cross country team is great but the only sport anyone seems to care about in the fall is football. Why is that? It’s just not fair.

 J.M., Moraga

 

As my particularly annoying history teacher back at Acalanes used to point out with depressing regularity, life isn’t fair.

Yes, football gets all the glory, and football players get all the glory (and many of the girls), and it’s not fair. After all, I don’t imagine too many defensive linemen could make it through a cross country practice without calling their mom for a ride to finish the warmup run. Then again not a lot of cross country runners would survive a tackle from a 200-pound linebacker who had a 15-yard running start.

All sports have their weaknesses and their strengths, but the thing about football is simply this: People watch it. Now maybe the freshman girls in the stands don’t watch (or the senior girls, for that matter), but 99.9% of American sports fans like to watch football. And of that 99.9%, a large percentage loves football, and many will wander on down to the high school on Friday night to see a local team play.

I can guarantee they will not wander on down to watch a cross country meet, and many fewer will come watch a girls’ basketball game or even a baseball game.

This interest does not go unnoticed by school administrators, who not only realize that a good football team can get an entire community excited in ways that a good cross country team, or good wrestling team, will not, but also understand that whatever “school spirit” might be, a good football team will make it better.

Yes, there’s more to life than spirit — all those folks buying tickets to the game are doing so with cold hard cash that the athletic director can then turn around and spend on other sports that don’t generate any revenue at all. (And yes, cross country falls into the latter category.)

On top of that, booster clubs are a huge part of school sports’ budgets in these days of education cuts and inflated pension plans. And boosters get more excited about football than any other sport.

Now in terms of the athletes, and the dedication it takes to succeed at a high level, football is no different than any other sport. It might be more painful, and players need to learn to love the weight room, but no athlete and no team gets really good without putting in the time. So on a purely moral, ethical plane, all outstanding teams at a given school should receive the same level of student, administrative and community support.

But you know, even SportStars’ devoted and hard-working advertising sales staff couldn’t sell enough ads for a cross country preview issue — or one for girls’ volleyball or boys’ golf. But they can for football, and just as football’s following allows this magazine to write about cross country, so football’s impact on the school you attend has a lot to do with having a cross country team.

At one level, it isn’t fair, granted — but you probably learned a long time ago life wasn’t nearly as fair as people made it out to be.  

 

Clay Kallam is an assistant athletic director and girls varsity basketball coach at Bentley High in Lafayette. To submit a question for Behind the Clipboard, email Coach Kallam at clayk@fullcourt.com


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