http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2011/ ... and-texans
Authors explore role of high school football in state's culture
The first thing you should know is the first thing you see when you walk into the expansive exhibit on high school football's place in the life of Texas. It's a message penned by Joe Nick Patoski, curator of the exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and a chronicler of the state's culture:
"Texas high school football is more than just a game."
Indeed, it's as much about the band, the cheerleaders, the mascots and the drill and dance teams — and all the relatives and friends of the participants — as it is about action on the field.
On Saturday, a series of speakers at the museum explored the past, present and future of a sport that, perhaps more than any other, is deeply woven into the state's social fabric. As the late James Michener wrote in his epic historical novel "Texas," nowhere is the passion for high school football greater than in the Lone Star State and the coal fields of Pennsylvania.
But that passion is showing signs of fading in Texas, said Ty Cashion , a professor of history at Sam Houston State University and author of "Pigskin Pulpit: A Social History of Texas High School Football Coaches."
"It's never been as big as it is," Cashion said of the sport, noting the proliferation of lavish stadiums, "but it's not nearly as important as it used to be."
Among the reasons: more opportunities for recreation and entertainment, less pressure on boys to prove their masculinity and growing concern about head injuries.
Many of the former coaches he interviewed for his book told him they considered becoming preachers but decided instead to get into "the related field of coaching." His own high school coach, Joe Bob Tyler, who had fought at the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, put players through paces in the early 1970s that seemed driven by a mixture of religious and military fervor.
"If the Geneva Convention had seen some of our workouts, they would have shut us down," Cashion said.
Some high school coaches in the 1950s, '60s and '70s essentially treated players like sharecroppers, he said. He told the story of one coach who, upon spotting a player smoking, took the cigarette and put it out on the player's chest, burning through the shirt to leave a permanent scar. The player wore the scar as a badge of honor and never smoked again.
"You do that today and you end up on the world news and you lose your job," Cashion said.
Ricky Sherrod , author of "Stephenville Yellow Jacket Football," said small towns such as the subject of his book tend to embrace high school football more than bigger cities, where there are more distractions.
"Lots of us (in small towns) think, 'Thank God for high school football,'" he said.
Todd Raymond, McCallum High School's football coach, who toured the exhibit with his family and took in some of the talks, said many coaches feel a certain pressure to keep the hard work of training somewhat entertaining, lest their recruits decide to pursue other options for recreation.
"What amazes me," Raymond said, "is so many kids still want to play football."email@example.com
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