Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Myth of High School Football

There is a prevailing notion that high school football is a big thing around here. I once believed it. I spent a quarter-century perpetuating it on local television. Maybe at one time it was. Now I believe, with a couple of exceptions, high school football has insignificant mass appeal in northwest Louisiana.
This is sacrilegious, I know, coming from someone who demanded the full resources of a local television station be dedicated to covering prep football for fifteen Fridays every fall. It's still being done, by the way. At the risk of sounding pompous and arrogant, I claim a significant amount of credit or blame for that. Over the last couple of years, I've spoken with two other long-time local TV sports directors about this phenomenon. I asked Ed Baswell (KTBS) and Bob Griffin (KSLA) if they can recall when we started going nuts over Friday nights. I worked for both of those gentlemen on dozens of autumn Fridays before I ran my own shop. I distinctly remember a time when we did not bring in extra help for Friday football. Nowadays, it's all hands on deck. Somewhere in the late 1980's, we starting turning up the pressure. Instead of three games, we covered five, then six, and so on. Gradually, we were spreading out over the massive geographic footprint of this television market and covering as many as fifteen games a night. None of us has been able to pinpoint when the decision was made to pursue Fridays with such vigor.
Special sets have been built, overtime is approved, graphics and music are produced. Now, at least two local TV stations do hour-long specials on Friday nights. "The Sideline Show" and "Friday Football Fever" on KTAL and KTBS are the kind of presentations that used to be reserved for annual sporting events such as the Super Derby and the Independence Bowl. As long as the account executives at the stations can make hay with this stuff, I guess the shows will continue.
That's the only real justification for them. I have two kids in high school. I can tell you that kids do not rush home to see their school's highlights on the local news. They go to parties after games. Except for Byrd, Airline, Evangel and Calvary, students and parents do not show up for the games in significant numbers. The circumstance is different in the rural parts of the viewing area, particularly in east Texas. Still, I'm not convinced that there is a massive viewership yearning for videotape of a sophomore running back breaking through the line for a gain of seven.
On the other side of the argument, you could add up the number of people in stadiums across the Ark-La-Tex on a given Friday and come up with an impressive number. Certainly, it would be larger than the crowd count at the movies or even a major concert. Okay, now I'm doing the math and the ancient logic I used to convince News Directors and Chief Photographers to sell their souls to Friday football is coming back to me. Maybe I'll catch a game and hurry home to see who had the best angle on the long touchdown run.
I know first-hand how hard all the local sports departments work. I know intimately how challenging and frustrating Friday nights can be. I also know how exhilirating and satisfying a well-presented highlight show can be. I wish my TV sports buddies well this fall. I just hope all the sweat and aggravation is worth it.

Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As Jackie Chiles would say - This is outrageous, egregious, preposterous.