Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Our state religion

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

In his novel Texas, James Michner postulated that if the state could sponsor a religion, then it would be football. Texas high schools live and die by the pigskin, and sometimes it seems that football wins out over the real needs of the students. Case in point: The "debacle" over the Class 4A state championship game between Highland Park and Marshall.

Don't get me wrong: I love football. I just have the brains (I hope) to keep it all in perspective.

Here's the story in a nutshell: Highland Park is a smallish city pretty much surrounded by Dallas. (The same area also includes University Park - home of SMU - and Greenway Parks.) The high school football team hasn't won a state championship since 1957. So yes, I can understand that football fever is running high. The problem is that the opposing team won the coin toss to get home field advantage. Had HP won, the game would have been played at Texas stadium, a venue that holds about 60,000. Marshall chose to play in Tyler at a stadium that holds about 14,000.

This is the way the rules have worked for years. Football is a big thing in HP, and residents are furious that there aren't enough tickets available. The Dallas Morning News has even editorialized about this situation. But I have to wonder (as did a letter writer today's edition) if this wouldn't be as big a deal if it wasn't Highland Park?

Highland Park is very affluent. Money or no, I can understand the disappointment of long-time fans who have been shut out of tickets. On the other hand, this situation has been going on for years. Had it been our high school we probably wouldn't get half the publicity over the situation. In fact, the paper reports that politicians are getting into it now, propsing methods to change how venues for championship games are selected.

Isn't it odd how politicians can jump right in and propose a solution for broken-hearted football fans, but they can't solve our school funding problems? Here's my proposal: Fix the problems that affect the majority of our students, THEN go work on the small stuff.

The perception (be it right or wrong) is that this wouldn't be such a big issue if Highland Park wasn't an affluent community. I'm just ill over the fact that this gets more publicity than the real issues our schools face. Our local high school had broken copiers for over a month. Why was that? Students weren't getting their syllabi for the six weeks, but I can guarantee you that the football team played every week and the band had three large rented trucks to get their stuff to the venues. Maybe the booster club pays for the trucks, but it sure doesn't look good on the surface. Perhaps if the trucks are paid for via fundraising, they should put some signage on them: "Thanks to the Booster Club" or something along those lines.

This is Texas. Football rules. It would be nice if education did once in a while.

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