THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 392, November 5, 2006
"The proper tax rate is Zero per cent."
Special to the Libertarian Enterprise
It's said that high school football is a religion in the state of Texas. I've lived in Texas, and I personally think that "religion" might not be a strong enough word. In the state I currently live, high school football hasn't quite reached the status that it has in Texas. But on any given Friday night, you'll still see plenty of folks turn out for one high school football contest or another.
During the course of the past couple of football seasons, I've attended a number of high school games myself. I actually like football, but I'm considerably less than interested if I don't care who wins. I've gone to games lately, though, because I do care. That's because a friend's son plays on one local team.
This past Friday night, I found myself once again seated on cold metal bleachers for a late season game. We waited for the game to begin with more than our usual state of nerves because the opposing team happens to be the best in the league this year. With a record of 8 and 0, it was going to be tough for the home team to score many points at all let alone emerge with a victory, and we knew it.
I'm going to call the home teamthe team my friend's son plays onthe Broncos, because they happen to wear blue and orange just like professional team of the same name. I'll call the opposing teamthe one with the unblemished recordthe Reindeer because (I kid you not) their team colors are green, red, and white.
As I watched the teams take the field, I was astounded at the size of many of the Reindeer players. Even in high school, many of the players are big. But the Reindeer defensive line was huge! Our teamthough having some fairly big guys of their ownappeared visibly smaller as they got into position to begin play. In short order, I learned that the Reindeer players were not only big, they were good. Really good.
Although a couple of quick scores by the Reindeer gave the game a lopsided appearance, the truth is that the Broncos played hard and were surprisingly successful at keeping the Reindeer in check. That's when the Reindeer began to show another aspect of themselves. With virtually every play (certainly at least with every turnover), yellow flags flew and penalties were exacted again, and then again.
The Reindeer were repeatedly penalized for late hits. There were instances of holding, roughing the kicker, and grabbing face masks. The Reindeer fans booed. So did we, but we booed the players. The Reindeer fans were booing the referees.
By halftime, the score was even more lopsided, though the Broncos had at least managed to get on the board with a touchdown (that's actually better than it sounds when you realize that the Reindeer had, in their eight games to date, allowed a grand total of just five trips into the end zone by opposing teams). We were a little disappointed, of course, but far from hopeless. The Broncos hadn't even come close to giving up yet, and we weren't about to, either!
The Reindeer marching band promptly took the field the players had vacated and began to play. Audiences on both sides of the field politely applauded. After watching the band members marching about in their red, green, and white costumes, I asked my friend if Santa Claus would be coming any time soon. Santa never arrived, but the award-winning Broncos band did. And then it was time for the second half of the football game to begin.
It was clear within moments that the Reindeer team was going to continue to play dirty. Yellow flags flew, sometimes so quickly that plays never really got underway before being interrupted by whistles. At this point in the game, even the Reindeer coach was cautioned as to his own behavior! The Reindeer fans booed some more. Those of us seated on the Broncos' side of the stadium didn't bother. We were rapidly becoming more and more stunned at the unsportsmanlike behavior unfolding before our very eyes.
By the time the fourth quarter began, one Reindeer player had been cited with so many personal fouls that he was out of the game. Another of the Reindeer team's star players was rapidly approaching the same state. The Broncos, meanwhile, were still playing hard, and they actually managed another touchdown against the Reindeer despite one side's dirty play. Never-the-less, it was clear that the Broncos were going down to defeat. And that's what made what happened next even more appalling.
The Broncos had the ball, but there were only thirteen seconds left in the game and they were trailing by 12 points. There is nothing that they could have done to win the game, not even the miracle they decided to attempt. As the clock rapidly counted down toward the finish of regulation play, the Broncos quarterback launched what can only be called a "Hail Mary" pass. It was high, and it was long. It was also coming down nowhere near a Broncos player (as it happens, it did come down near a Reindeer player who promptly intercepted it).
Despite the fact the Reindeer had clearly already won the game, and despite the all too obvious fact the ball was coming down on the opposite side of the field from a certain Broncos player, a Reindeer player closed in for a tackle. When he did, he didn't just take the Broncos player down. He hit him exceptionally hard and took him down with everything he had and then some. He stood up and walked away; the Broncos player didn't. The Reindeer player never even looked back.
While the Reindeer players and fans celebrated their 9 and 0 record, that Broncos player was still laying on the ground. As it turns out, he was merely stunned and I'm told he's okay. But that extra hard hit and the utter unconcern of the Reindeer player afterward summed up the entire game for me. Yes, the Reindeer players are good athletes. But many of them are apparently not good people.
Sometimes, we wonder why people in authority abuse that authority. I don't know that we need to look any further than Friday night's game between the Broncos and the Reindeer for an answer to that question. They do it because they're more powerful than we are. Whether they're barely more powerful or overwhelmingly more powerful doesn't seem to matter. That they have us under their control, however briefly, is apparently enough for them to take some sort of an unholy joy in exercising that control whether it's in any way warranted or not.
The Reindeer players are high school boys who should have been taught better by now. But the fact that their head coach was engaging in similar behavior during the game doesn't bode well for them learning that lesson while they're at football practice. And the bad behavior of the Reindeer fansmany of whom were the parents of those boysonly served to encourage such behavior. (In fact, I later learned that those Reindeer fans systematically destroyed decorations the Broncos had erected to honor school seniors on their way out of the stadium.)
Such unsportsmanlike behaviorrude at best, and certainly hurtful in a very real sense more often than notcan spread like a virus, too. On Friday night, it certainly did!
At the end of every home game, whether the Broncos win or lose, a host of fans line up along the side of the field in two neat rows. When the Broncos players leave the field, they jog between those lines on their way to the locker room. They get comforted or congratulated there, and the fansespecially younger boys who dream of becoming a Bronco one day themselveslove the chance to slap the hands or see the smiles of the players they love and look up to.
On Friday night, the fans were in place, and the Broncos were almost ready to leave the field when the Reindeer marching band showed up. The band, which could have looped around the head of the fan lines or stopped and waited a few minutes (at most) for the players to run their "gauntlet," chose instead to begin screaming at the young boys who made up the head of the lines. "Get out of our way!" some band members shouted. "We're coming through! Move it!" screamed others. "Move now!" another yelled, and the youngsters who were subjected to this treatment actually began to look a little afraid.
I'm not sure what might have happened next if it weren't for the actions of one mother who had had just about enough of the Reindeer attitude for one evening. (Okay, it was my friend. But you're about to see one reason why she's a friend!) This mother stepped up to the head of the line herself, stood directly in front of the oncoming Reindeer band, and held up both hands as she shouted, "Stop!" The band members were so surprised that somebody actually called them on their little power trip that they did. "Just wait a minute!" she commanded. And you know what? They did.
Let me tell you something else that happened this weekend. An online acquaintance of mine found himself on the wrong end of a police officer's drawn weapon. He was ordered to the ground (not being suicidal, he promptly complied) where he was cuffed; the officer and his considerable back-up then took him to the back of a squad car where they questioned him andeventuallylet him go. What had he done? Nothing. He was merely wearing a handgun on one hip.
The place this man was frequenting at the time doesn't prohibit him from having his firearm on the premises, nor does local or state law. He hadn't done anything wrong and was, in fact, doing nothing more or less than quietly browsing some merchandise when he found himself the object of such unwarranted attentions.
He understands that someone less versed in civil liberties or the law might have looked at him askance, but he would have answered their questions just as politely as they were asked. If the police were brought in, he would have pleasantly alleviated their concerns without a problem. And yet, despite his having done nothing and his entirely innocent behavior even as the police approached, law enforcement chose to exercise every bit of power over him that they couldand when you're facing a loaded gun, that power is considerable!
The police officers in question behaved a whole lot like they were Reindeer football players. Without reason, they took the power that they had and used it well past the point of abuse. Now imagine the power that lies in the hands of a Congressman or a President, and consider that the level of abuse is all too often a direct reflection of the level of power attained by the abuser!
The Reindeer football players didn't cause any lasting harm on Friday night by their actions. But the fact that they did act the way they did is a pretty good indicator that they'll continue to act that way throughout the rest of their lives if they're not taught better now. And some of those players will probably end up being cops. Others will be politicians. Some will be bureaucrats. And they'll all be wielding their authority the way they've been used to wielding it since they weren't stopped from doing so as children.
Parents need to pick up their slack. So do teachers and coaches. And frankly, so do all of the rest of us. My friend stepped in front of a marching band and made it clear that she wasn't going to let their arrogance result in the abuse of a few young boys and their after-the-game ritual. The online acquaintance I mentioned isn't going to quietly let the local cops get away with their abuse of authority, eithernor, as it happens, is his lawyer. I'm personally not inclined to let politicians get away with much without at least telling them I know perfectly well what they're doingand sharing that with as many others as I can reach.
If you want to do something, too, you should certainly feel free to do whatever you can work your way up to doing. But I'd suggest you start in your own home and make sure that your own children are people neither you nor your neighbors would fear in positions of authority some day. I know of a Bronco player that fills that bill rather well. He happens to be the reason I was at Friday night's game in the first place.
Although the Reindeer were successful at keeping the Broncos from getting too many real gains, my friend's son never-the-less broke his school's all time rushing record on Friday night. He knew how many yards he needed to break the record, of course. But when I congratulated him on his considerable accomplishment, he only smiled and said, "Thank you," and said he wasn't really sure when during the course of the game he'd broken the record.
His mother and I knew. He'd had some smaller gains in the first quarter, but he shattered the record in one long run that by itself would have been just about enough to do the trick. If he'd thought for a single moment about himself, if he'd wasted just a second on his own ego instead of being concerned with his role in the next play, he would have known, too. That he didn'tthat he was more concerned about his team and the game as a wholesays something about him as much as the Reindeer player behavior says something about them. It also says something about his mother.
Most important of all, it says something about all of us and the course we can set for the future. There are posters and buttons, embroidered sentiments and songs, that all suggest that children are our future. They are. So which children do you want to grow up to become FBI agents, politicians, doctors, and the parents of the next generation? The Reindeerwho won a football game, but lost all respector the Broncoswho lost a game with good grace, and who include others when they think about themselves? It's up to us, quite literally, to make the children that we'd choose.
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