Is High School Football Getting Political?

Football is often cited as the most American of sports. The United States’ obsession with the game is often seen as fanatic to outsiders, many of whom can’t fathom the level of celebrity that even college athletes enjoy as a result of the cult-like love for the game. But that divide is also happening nationally, according to new data that shows young men in blue states picking up the pigskin much less than than red state counterparts.

High school football enrollment has taken its biggest hit — 15 percent — in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Colorado also dropped 14 percent, Massachusetts and Maryland 8 percent, New York 7 percent, and California 4 percent. Besides a common trend in high school football numbers, they all voted for President Barack Obama in the last two elections. Bachelor’s degrees are also more common within these states.

These numbers aren’t just supported by the number of young men swapping football for other sports. When the RAND Corporation asked fathers what sports they wanted their children to play, if any, only a slim majority — 55 percent — said that they would be comfortable with their sons taking up football. In contrast, approval exceeded 90 percent for baseball, basketball, soccer, and track.

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In a column for the New York Times, David Leonhardt spoke about just how jarring this is, considering football has become an entire industry within the United States.

“On the one hand, football is akin to a secular religion for many Americans. It’s a tribal way of organizing life, complete with special garments, a sense of identity and weekly rituals. Football has its own annual holidays: the Iron Bowl in late November for Alabama, the Michigan-Ohio State game for the industrial Midwest and the Thanksgiving games and Super Bowl for the entire country.”

While disappearance of football may seem unfathomable at this point, Leonhardt also reminds readers that it wouldn’t be the first cultural mainstay to take a backseat to ongoing trends. Football is especially prone to being uprooted because it has recently been tied to many health risks due to the threat of injury while playing the game.

“Yet culture can change. As your grandparents can tell you, horse racing, boxing and weekly moviegoing were all once leading forms of entertainment. And when mass culture meets public health, change that once seemed unfathomable can occur pretty rapidly.”

Do you think American football could be overtaken by another sport?

[Image via Flickr]