One of my favorite recording artists of all time, Marvin Gaye, once had a big hit titled What's Goin' On? It was a commentary on what our society had become in the late '60s and early '70s. In light of some things that have occurred both in our area and across the nation recently, I have to ask the same question. What's goin' on with football in this country?
In less than a week, I've heard the horrible story of the Warren County head football coach being brutally assaulted by an opposing player from Hancock Central. He was simply trying to protect his own player from further assault by the same young man after the game. That coach will be recovering from those injuries for quite some time, and his player missed a very important game against region opponent Washington-Wilkes with playoff spots and seedings on the line.
On a recent Saturday night in the Georgia-Vanderbilt game, viewers were able to witness a shouting match between Vanderbilt's head coach and the Georgia defensive coordinator when the Commodores' head man had unsavory things to say about Georgia defensive back Shawn Williams, who had committed personal fouls during the game. Unfortunately, I must admit that if an opposing coach had said to me what coach Jim Franklin allegedly said to assistant coach Todd Grantham, I might have reacted in a similar fashion.
Earlier in the game, Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart ran after Georgia's nose tackle and purposely clipped him at the knees far from the play. Kwame Geathers, the Georgia player, was seen punching Stewart in retaliation. Stewart, Geathers and Williams have been suspended by the SEC for the first half of their next game. While the Vanderbilt center missed a game against a mediocre, at best, Army team, Georgia's two starters will miss the first half of a huge SEC matchup with Florida.
If these instances of unsportsmanlike behavior weren't enough, it continued that Sunday when a joyous Jim Harbough, head coach of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, aggressively shook the hand and slapped the back of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Swartz, after a hard-fought victory. Swartz responded profanely to express his displeasure and yet another unsavory controversy came to our attention.
It gets worse. Before I could start writing this column, I read of further disasters on the field. During Thursday night's UCLA versus Arizona game on ESPN, two players were ejected as a result of a massive brawl that spread, according to the Associated Press, more than halfway down the field. The argument began with jawing and spread to shoving and punching. Just below that disturbing story was news that the Southwestern Athletic Conference had suspended a total of 41 players for at least one game each after a post-game fight between Southern University and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Because of events such as those mentioned above, security costs are skyrocketing. Imagine how much money could be saved if people would just behave. According to Thomson High officials, it costs our athletic department about $700 per football game for security alone. It costs more than $400 for each basketball game. If we host eight football games, including playoffs, this year and 10 basketball games, that totals almost $10,000 in security costs alone for two sports.
Wisely, Thomson High Principal Cecil Strong sent additional security to Augusta with our football team, cheerleaders and band last Friday in light of security concerns. Still, if trouble occurs, people will ask why we didn't have more security. Is it any wonder that it costs so much to attend a high school athletic contest? Imagine what these costs are at college and professional contests.
Furthermore, our stadium improvements were more costly because of security concerns about opposing fans. This costs us more in tax dollars.
If these trends continue, it won't be long before post-game handshakes will be a thing of the past. Teams and coaches will be required to be escorted directly to their locker rooms.
We as fans, coaches and players all should realize that we are killing a key component of what athletics is about: Sportsmanship.
I ask you again. What's Goin' On?