It has been a sad week for high school football in the Palmetto State. Instead of discussing touchdowns and zone blitzes we are faced with allegations of assault and battery and discussions of inquires and hearings.
By now everyone has heard about the events at the Marlboro County / Northwestern football game Friday night in Rock Hill. Two of the top teams in the state engaged in a great game that was decided on the final play of the game. A true classic with 2 of the top coaches and teams in Class 4A played at the highest level.
What happened next has been debated for the past week and has involved coaches, players, film crews, TV video and even fans. The facts are fuzzy and I don't want to add to the speculation but what is known is that after the game the two teams fought, coaches were involved; helmets were used as weapons and a melee ensued that required 30 Rock Hill City Police to use mace to break up the fracas. The details of who started what, who hit whom, and who was responsible are still being sorted out and will probably bring even more facts to the forefront.
I don't want to debate who is responsible. I was not there and even after talking to over 20 people who were there, I have no idea what happened.
I do know that I am ashamed for this great sport today. I am ashamed that 2 schools that have such a proud tradition of running fine programs allowed this to happen. I know Coach Dean Boyd from Marlboro and Coach Jimmy Wallace from Northwestern personally. These are fine men who have dedicated their life to coaching our young people. They run first class programs and instill discipline in their players. Graduates of their schools dot the lineups of the college and pro teams as well as businesses around the state. They are frankly good people. So how did this happen?
How did an incident of this magnitude occur in an environment of high school football game? How did it ever get to this stage?
The question I keep receiving from around the state is who was responsible, who was guilty. Did the coaches allow it to happen? Was it the officials? How did the police and security react? Are the players to blame? I guess the SCHSL and Ronnie Matthews will decide those questions, that is what he is paid to do but my first thought is perhaps everyone is guilty.
In a society today where players such as Allen Iverson, Randy Moss, Jayson Williams and many other pro athletes are revered despite obvious problems with their personas, we see where the problems begins. Daily these pro athletes are held up as virtual gods to us and our young athletes. We see players hailed as MVPs in one article and the next day we see them taking swinging shots at the opponent ala Shaq O'Neill in last year's NBA finals. We have seen NFL players physically attack refs and even fans attack players and refs. Unfortunately this behavior seems to have trickled down to the high school.
At most high school games, I watch from the sidelines. I am amazed by the trash talking and constant poor sportsmanship that I sometimes witness. It seems there is no sanctuary even in the bastion on high school football innocence.
My hope is that this incident will serve as a wake up call for all involved. Coaches should keep players on a short leash, referees should drop the flag quickly on players that showboat, trash talk, or act like immature 5 year olds. And the players need to remember that playing football is a privilege and they should act like the role models that they are for our communities and young people.