State of Texas v. Yours Truly

“Do you want to play flag football with your coach from last year?” I asked my ten-year-old. “No,” he replied, much to my surprise. I thought he had fun last fall.

“I want to play tackle.”

His friends are playing tackle. A physician is letting his son play tackle. Mom is okay with tackle. Our 13-year-old is on his third season of tackle, after all. I’d still prefer flag.

It felt like me versus the State of Texas, where Friday Night Lights is as much religion as Sunday morning sermons.

I’m conflicted on football. I never played organized ball growing up. Dad got me into soccer early on to keep me distracted from it, I suppose. He never directly said I couldn’t play, but I somehow perceived his perspective.

I loved playing football in the neighborhood – even tackle, especially tackle. The physicality of tackling tickles something in a boy’s development.

For years I regretted never knocking heads and testing strength with pads on. I thought it would have done me some good to take on the next city state with a band of fifty-five brothers.

So which do I want for my sons?

The camaraderie of football is its greatest selling point. The sport is simulated battle, border-lying on barbarism. It is modern, somewhat socially acceptable gladiation.

For me, however, the attraction of football is not the violence. It’s the grace. The streaking, passing, route running and needle threading; not the smashing, bashing and crashing.

Naturally, I like the pad-less seven-on-seven summer passing leagues that teams play in the off-season. I wish there were similar competitive, non-contact options in the fall for high schoolers in lieu of traditional tackle.

Unlike some medical professionals and parents who restrict young boys from playing tackle, saying their brains and bodies aren’t developed enough, I prefer the opposite.

I’d rather them play early when they’re like marshmallows bumping into each other. It’s later on when testosterone starts doing damage.

Stronger muscles create speed, force, impact and contortion that the human body was never meant to absorb. At some point laws of physics take over. No matter how thick the muscles around it may become, the fibula is still less than an inch in diameter.

Today, grown men across the country walk around with disabilities, mostly minor, resulting from high school football. I have a friend who traveled to and from his senior year Cuero High School football games in an ambulance. He needed treatment before and after to rein in the pain.

Despite purported advances in padding and technique, injuries seem to be no less prevalent today. Just ask the Champion High School player who recently suffered a gruesome facial injury or the Dallas Cowboys’ Tony Romo who went down, yet again, before the season even starts.

I don’t have nagging football maladies and I’m thankful. Others do and they’re thankful, too – for their experiences in the arena, for participating in something bigger than themselves. Football in Texas certainly fits that bill.

As for this fall, the State of Texas has won. My 10-year-old is playing tackle.

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2 Responses to “State of Texas v. Yours Truly”


  1. 1 Chris Van Stavern September 9, 2016 at 10:26

    Great article KT, we had the same struggle in our house and Texas won here as well.


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