High school football participation is down 6.6 percent over the last decade.
According to the White House, this is due to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, a shift from coal to solar power and disastrous Obama-era trade deals.
Uh, whither high school football?
For although football is woven into the fabric of American life, we could be in the midst of an incredible sea change.
(Note I: I have just mixed metaphors here, another indication of the growing failure of the U.S. educational system.)
Alas, Pan Am, Woolworth and Blockbuster all once seemed indispensable; all are gone. A couple generations from now, could football be looking at fourth down, and 86 to go?
We are facing an existential crisis.
You lose high school football, you lose the homecoming game.
You lose the homecoming game, you lose the homecoming queen.
You lose the homecoming queen, you lose the first step in America’s centuries-old tradition of objectifying, denigrating and holding down women.
So what is the exact cause of prep football’s dwindling participation numbers? Most likely, safety concerns — and that’s even before we get to emerging data in regard to brain injuries.
Ever watch the brilliant docuseries “Friday Night Tykes”? Available on Netflix, it is more frightening than Bob Woodward’s “Fear.” And it’s the parents and coaches that will scare you halfway to MMA.
Pop Warner football — for ages 5 to 16 — also is in decline, with many making the argument to ban youth tackle football. I am late to come to this position; rather misguided, previously I had proselytized only on banning preteen Twister.
(Column Intermission: Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf played football and basketball in high school. Much to his mother’s delight, he chose basketball over football after that, eventually leading him to Le Moyne College, which now leads him to a professional basketball contract with Hapoel Haifa in Israel’s second-tier league. I don’t know what the Hebrew word is for “caramelized French toast,” but those folks better triple their order for the next eight months.)
Although our glorification of sports culture begins at a young age, it is fully enabled at the high school level. This is the springboard to athletic scholarships, Roll Tide-obsessed Saturdays and Heisman hype.
(Note II: In high school, I was miffed when I got inside intel from the senior class committee that I finished runner-up for “Most Likely to Succeed” — to a football captain. Really? Forty-odd years later, I am an almost award-winning columnist watching TV most days while Mr. Jock Strap is selling life insurance out of the back of his ’83 Buick.)
Anyhow, more and more high schoolers are turning their backs on football. So what are they doing with their spare time then?
(a) Trying to score iHeartRadio concert tickets.
(b) Taking SAT prep courses.
(c) Downloading cat videos on their smartphones.
(d) Rereading Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for small talk at the next Sadie Hawkins dance.
(e) Online poker by day, esports by night.
If you answered (b) or (d), I assume you have been living under a rock for 25 years and, upon emerging, are thrilled to see “Murphy Brown” on your Thursday night CBS schedule.
In 2017, 20 schools nationwide dropped football. In 2018, from California, Texas and North Carolina to Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, another dozen or so schools have canceled their seasons, largely due to lack of participation.
Healdsburg (Calif.) High started with a roster of 18, lost its first two games by a combined 102-0 and, after several players left the team, the remaining voted, 7-4, to end the season.
Were they quitters? No.
They were smart.
The school has an acclaimed culinary arts program, an on-site vineyard is being built to allow the study of viticulture and nearly one-fifth of the student body takes music classes.
It was an easy call: Good food, good wine, good music, and minimal chance of bodily harm.
Q. If the designer sunglasses companies ever gained the influence in the poker world that the athletic shoe companies have in basketball, do you see yourself signing a six- or seven-figure deal with the likes of Oakley or Ray-Ban, or will you stand for the integrity of the sport by wearing a pair of off-the-rack, $2.50 shades from Walmart? (Perry Clark, Princeton, W.Va.)
A. Heck, I would sign a three-figure deal to drink a case of Fresca at every poker tournament.
Q. Is Las Vegas taking action yet on Oscar De La Hoya vs. Donald Trump in 2020? (Harrison Roy; Tucson)
A. Wow. That could be the first pay-per-view presidential election.
Q. In the first half of the U.S.-Mexico soccer match, the U.S. set up a wall to defend a Mexican direct kick. Did that fulfill one of POTUS’s campaign promises? (John King; Damascus, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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