Debunking the notion that the removal of OPRF football would be beneficial

January 6th, 2019 8:28 AM

OPRF running back Keith Robinson pushes forward for a nice gain against Glenbard West. (File photo)

By Andrew Donlan

When I saw the Letter To The Editor in the Dec. 11 issue of the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park & River Forest titled "OPRF should eliminate football," I wasn't surprised.

It's a popular argument (especially from outsiders) that has been picking up traction for years now. The problem is that it's a bad argument, one not thought out in the slightest bit, and a fine example of "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Most people who make this argument expect to triumph because of assumed anecdotal responses such as, "Well, I played, and I'm fine!" I won't do that here, but I will say that that argument is not much different from taking a few examples of traumatic injuries and deciding to disband an entire program because of them.

The idea that football is simply "gladiatorial carnage" is laughable to anyone who has ever taken part in the sport, particularly at OPRF. It's a team game capable of establishing discipline, work ethic, and good physical fitness—perhaps better than any other team sport at the school. Sure, you may be able to find that elsewhere, but removing the program would take the most surefire avenue away from hundreds of kids.

In terms of social progress, the football program is gold among the dross in terms of actual real-life difference making. No other sport displays the diversity in demographics that football does. It's an organic way for kids from different backgrounds to come together, and those coalitions make a resounding impact throughout the school, bringing together social groups that wouldn't normally interact without the presence of football.

There also aren't any cuts in football—Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… they're all welcome on the OPRF football team. Everyone that wishes to has the same chance to learn and become better teammates, athletes and people. Oh, that too—that wishes to. It's a good thing no one is forcing our young ones to join, and that no one is allowed to join without the consent of their parents. Since when do you get to dictate what I can put my body through?

If you can do that, let's start with the cookies and the rib sandwiches in the lunchroom. After all, bad eating habits have scientifically been proven to break down our bodies, physically and mentally. And that science is far clearer than any that the "ban football" crowd is pointing to as evidence that Friday nights at OPRF in the fall should no longer exist.  

I'd be remiss to not mention the slew of kids who have had the chance to play college football because of OPRF's program. These opportunities have allowed young men to put themselves in better academic positions, regardless of what division they've gone on to play in. Without football, many would be worse off and a lot less would be better off.

But, let's tear the stadium down. Remove a staple of the community and unique experience for hundreds of kids that come through Oak Park and River Forest High School. Then we can all sleep well at night knowing we have better swimming pools, more roaming police officers and that we are the champions of social progress.

*Click link below to read "OPRF should eliminate football" in a Letter to Editor from Dec. 11 issue.

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  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 8th, 2019 1:29 AM

    OK Nick, you shared an idea, so sorry if that was harsh. But not sure what opening up sports that already have no cut policies means. There have been girls on the wrestling and football teams from time to time already, so that is pretty open already. Who would coach? Provide insurance? Provide Referees? Settle rules disputes? If its privately funded then it's back to travel teams where only rich kids get to play. Every other school in the state would have to also change too, which isn't going to happen. So no IHSA participation. No away meets. No organized sports means no marching band at sports events. No cheerleading. The school is sounding pretty low community spirit at that point if that happened. Could a sport go away? Sure, if it suddenly cost tens of millions of dollars that should be seriously considered. But that is only the case with the pool. And OPRF is not the only place looking at those expenses, as Hinsdale just voted NO on their pool referendum.

  • Nick Arestopoulos (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 7th, 2019 3:36 PM

    By the way, still waiting for this evisceration to occur.

  • Nick Arestopoulos (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 7th, 2019 2:35 PM

    Tom, I didn't say replace with park district play. I said divorce them from the high school. Even use the current fields and facilities. My proposal could open up football, wrestling, etc... to more students. Let the high school spread it's resources more evenly amongst all the students.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 7th, 2019 1:56 PM

    Before others eviserate Nick, let me have my shot. Sports are a great thing. Student athletes do better at their studies than they otherwise would. It teaches leadership. It teaches teamwork. It teaches a kid how to win gracefully and how to lose and survive to compete another day. Sorry, but mere exercise or park district play isn't going to cut it. For the record, I love swimming, but spending tens of millions on it makes it an easy NO to do an olympic pool. For the same reason we don't fund ice rinks for hockey or polo ponies. But track, wrestling, football, etc are awesome and necessary.

  • Nick Arestopoulos (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 7th, 2019 8:38 AM

    I would rather see all competitive interscholastic sports gone and those resources applied towards physical fitness taught by physical therapists. There would be enough left over for job training, kids can leave high school ready to be mechanics, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, etc... If we need football to instill discipline, work ethic, and good physical fitness then our system is failing. Nice strawman argument about eating habits. There are major differences between eating habits and football programs to make that a bad analogy. It is true, we should start with eating habits, but it doesn't make it less true that football is a drain on resources for the school. If we want competitive youth sports I propose we divorce it from the high school budget, place it in the park district, and open it up to all residents.

  • Tom MacMillan from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: January 6th, 2019 8:37 PM

    Agreed 100%. A few people tried this tactic of putting a well loved staple of the community in play and at risk as a way to gain funding for their pool. Or to somehow equate one sport with the other. Every time D97 wants funds they talk about how there will be no band if people don't approve a referendum. The other strategy in the playbook is to glue equity to a pool as if you can't have one without the other. It gets old to see it over and over, but it never goes away, because if we are not careful it works.

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