Jacoby: John Harbaugh’s “football matters” column focuses on the big picture

Different people are making different kinds and levels of sacrifices during this difficult and challenging and deadly time in our history. And it’s true that cancelling the NCAA Basketball Tournament or not getting to play soccer during your senior year of high school doesn’t compare to what other people are experiencing.

But even the so-called smaller sacrifices are worth noting and should not be downplayed as not important. We here at WLAA have been featuring and will continue to feature many of our local high school athletes who have worked hard with an eye on spring 2020. Unfortunately, the hard work right now appears to be for nothing – except for the fact that people who work hard eventually get rewarded in life.

But not getting to play soccer or baseball or water polo or tennis during your senior season can have bigger ramifications than missing out on winning a game or a league title or a state championship. Some of these athletes were hoping to prove their ability on the athletic fields to improve their standings in the eyes of colleges and take their education to the next level.

These athletes can’t show college scouts and coaches just how good they are and earn their way not only on to campus but with a scholarship, one that will help them pave and pay their way to a higher education.

And this brings us to football. There are hundreds if not thousands of colleges and universities in this country that offer scholarships to play football, and the reality is that some of these young men might not get a chance to step on a campus without a football in their hands – let alone be able to afford the incredible high costs.

I was talking with a local coach recently about how football is a “life-changer” for many young men who are able to get that education they need to help set them up for success in life. And this conversation reminded me of a column John Harbaugh wrote a few years back.

It’s not only a good read, but an important read, especially today.

A few excerpts:

“Football is hard. It’s tough. It demands discipline. It teaches obedience. It builds character. Football is a metaphor for life. This game asks a young man to push himself further than he ever thought he could go. It literally challenges his physical courage. It shows him what it means to sacrifice. It teaches him the importance of doing his job well. We learn to put others first, to be part of something bigger than ourselves. And we learn to lift our teammates – and ourselves – up together. These are rare lessons nowadays.”

“I believe the most critical place for football is at the youth and high school levels. For 97 percent of football players, the pinnacle of their careers is the high school game. Few players ever go on to the college level. Even less make it to the pros. For a lot of these kids, it’s not until it’s all said and done, and they look back on it several years later, that they realize the difference the sport made in their lives. They are proud of playing the game. Have you ever met anybody who accomplished playing four years of high school football, and at the end of that run said, ‘Man, I wish I wouldn’t have played’? It doesn’t get said.”

“That’s why high school football – and particularly high school coaches – play such a vital role in our society. Our football coaches are on the front lines of the battle for the hearts and minds of the young men in our society. The culture war is on and we see it every day. These young men are more vulnerable than ever.”

It’s important we get our lives back on the playing field as soon as possible in a safe way to help pave the way for opportunity and learning and growth. We are all making sacrifices, some bigger than others but all important and meaningful.

And yes, coach Harbaugh, football certainly matters. In fact, all sports matter for different reasons – some more important than others. But all important.


Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens