Football Mill vs. Academic Mill

So, the other night I was watching the Viceland channel – Rivals: The Boom Squad it was the story about an area in South Florida that has produced the most professional football players of anyplace in America. Some of the talent it has produced includes Antonio Brown, DeVonta Freeman, and Teddy Bridgewater to just name a few. As I watching this show I couldn’t help but think what if we as people would focus that amount of dedication, hard work, and tireless effort instead of in football or other sports but into academics. I wonder how that would impact our struggles in our communities. The communities that these “so-called” superstars come from are dysfunctional to say the least. These communities are crime-ridden, poor, and have a high concentration of fatherless homes.

The story involves a rivalry between two Pop Warner teams, the Liberty City Warriors vs Gwen Cherry and how football shapes the lives of the kids playing, the community, and the culture. It’s amazing to me to see how hard these kids are working for an opportunity as a professional athlete that only a fraction of them will ever realize. You see in sports if you can’t dribble or catch you practice until you can, but where is that same dedication when it comes to not reading or math? Imagine if they were working this hard academically to become doctors, scientists, and entrepreneurs what that would look like. You see if you graduate medical school you become a doctor there is no draft, if you go to graduate school and become a PhD you become a scientist. But the culture we live in is so misguided that the message these kids are given is that sports is their only way out of their poverty, but is this true?

We have had professional football players for over 50 years and the poverty rate has not gone down it has gotten worse in these communities. In fact many of those who became professionals added to the problem by fathering out-of-wedlock children and abandoning them. Just because you are a great athlete doesn’t make you a great person. It has been discovered by the media that a lot of these leagues are actually opportunities for adults to gamble at the expense of these kids. Many criminals have purchased athletic equipment not out of some spirit of altruism, but to improve their odds of winning.

I think what if the people of these communities spent half as much effort into improving their neighborhoods as they do in sports and entertainment. Sunday through Friday these communities are war zones, yet on Saturday mornings they are arenas for the gladiators; many of whom begin as early as 4 years old. What are these kids being taught that their only worth in life is as gladiators for our entertainment? One man in the piece said that DeVonta Freeman was the man of his house as a child. How is this possible? He was the oldest of 6 children with no father. There is an epidemic in our communities and no one wants to address it, but it is the biggest cause of generational poverty that we have: fatherless homes. And yet we continue to fuel this epidemic knowing what the consequences to our children will be, that they will also live in poverty. How can we say we love our children when we put them in these positions?

How can I expect someone to love my children more than me? I keep hearing why won’t the government do this or that, but the real question is why you aren’t as a parent doing it. The question we never seem to ask is why. We always ask the how: how do we feed hungry kids, how do we teach kids who aren’t prepared to learn, or how do we get them supplies. As long as we are asking how instead of why we never get to the long-term solution. How will never lead us to the solution, only why can do that. If children are hungry the question isn’t how, but why. By asking why we can find the solution. However, it seems no one is really interested in finding solutions.