Back in 2014, New York Times reporter Ken Belson had an article on the front page of the Gray Lady on the declining status of tackle football in Marshall due to the risks of head injuries, Football's Risks Sink in, Even in the Heart of Texas. It noted the cancellation of seventh grade tackle football, as well as the program offered through the Boys & Girls Club. It even quoted me on why my sons weren't playing tackle football. "Smith’s oldest son played a couple of years of youth football," he wrote. "but his two younger sons are not following him."
Well, yes, but it's more because they're about as fast as Galapagos turtles, and would rather play on the computer than go outside when it is, you know, hot. Even Grayson decided not to continue, not because of fears of head injury but of sweat. And of course because he preferred building computers, taking electronics apart and preparing for a career inventing things. (He'll be starting college at a to-be-named engineering school next fall, and is lobbying me hard to get him a lawyer to help with his first patent application. Only I could have a kid who wants a patent lawyer for Christmas).
Yesterday's New York Times carried an updated piece Football Makes a Comeback in the Heart of Texas by Belson which tells the story of a new private tackle football program in Marshall founded by parents who wanted their sons to have the experience of full-contact football both to build character and to give them an opportunity to use football as a pathway to educational opportunity that they couldn't otherwise afford. The article points out important demographic information about my hometown that is often missed due to the emphasis about the patent docket, including the role that football has played for generations in giving young people a chance at the education that can mean a better life for their families.
That item is not an inconsiderable one because it's where I came from - after a successful football career in Marshall, my dad went to LSU on a football scholarship where he also majored in - wait for it - engineering. The photo at right shows him in his glory days before the Tulane game his sophomore year. (Tiger fans will be able to date the photo based on his jersey designation - Daddy wore "E7" that year, and no, that's not a typo.) After his playing days he and my mother resumed their courtship from high school in Marshall and they were living in Baton Rouge with my mother teaching at LSU after finishing graduate school when I showed up. So Geaux Tigers!
It's a good article, although the photos available online reveal the extraordinary depths of substandard journalism to which our mainstream media has sunk - the photos of a recent Marshall High School football game include a photo of a visiting band member from Hallsville. That is just not right, and I even suspect it's a woodwind player. This shoddy journalism needs to stop. Cameras need to be on the Marshall band. And preferably the trombone players.