I am no longer invited to dinner parties, largely because sometime between the foie gras and the fried chicken, inevitably I launch into a tirade about taxpayer funding of stadiums, and, frankly, this was spoiling a lot of people’s appetites.
However, this column is essentially my weekly dinner party – and I can’t be disinvited from here – so today I will enlighten my weary readers about runaway public funding of high school stadiums, and, for those who haven’t fled midway through this sentence, offer a kind and gentle out-of-box solution to our cultural crisis.
So last month I was reading in the Los Angeles Times about The High School Football Stadium Wars in Texas.
In 2012, the community of Allen, Tex., built an 18,000-seat, $60 million stadium for its high school. Then, earlier this year, neighboring McKinney decided it would counter with a 12,000-seat, $70 million stadium.
There is keeping up with the Joneses, and then there’s keeping up with the Kardashians – neither is a good idea, and the latter is a self-absorbed descent into a societal abyss.
Welcome to Texas high school football.
At the moment, there are 10 high school football stadiums in Texas with a capacity of at least 15,000. That’s a lot of Friday night light fixtures.
Granted, Texas can spend its money as it wishes.
Speaking of which, in the wake of Britain leaving the European Union, some in Texas have renewed the call for the state to secede from our union. That’s right – from Brexit to “Texit.” I am opposed to this: We should all stick together, plus if Texas secedes, I fear it might even declare war on the good old USA, and those folks are much more heavily armed than the rest of us.
Anyway, this stadium arms race has to stop.
We need to reset our core values. Sports should be a diversion, not a devotion; the quality of our lives is directly reflected by the quality of our convictions. If we are consumed by athletic accomplishment at the expense of athletic achievement, we are – how did my Uncle Nathan used to say it? – “halfway to hell in a handbasket with no brakes.”
What, you think we’re going to be able to colonize Mars by playing daily fantasy?
So this is what we need to do:
Let’s tear down all these stadiums and take all this new-stadium money to build open-air libraries, or domed libraries in cold-weather sites.
Out with football stadiums, in with library stadiums.
Rather than watching faux student-athletes knock the snot out of each other, people will come from far and wide to listen to actual student-scholars read selections from Homer and Shakespeare and Proust and Chekhov. It will be “To Kill a Mockingbird” vs. “Of Mice and Men,” “The Great Gatsby” vs. “A Farewell to Arms,” “Lord of the Flies” vs. “Animal Farm.”
In this brave, new world, the football team captain will become the guy no one wants to sit next to on the school bus, and all the cool kids will be those who can read, write and ’rithmetic. We’ll build better minds for the future, and leave the better bodies for “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.”
There will still be tailgating, with coolers full of vitamin water and brain food like blueberries, and fans rapping one-liners from “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”
There will still be cheerleaders. But instead of “S-U-C-C-E-S-S, that’s the way we spell success,” the cheer will be, “R-U-S-H-D-I-E, that’s the way we spell Rushdie!”
There will still be winners and losers, and I see no reason Lee Corso can’t transition from zone-read offenses to allegorical novels.
Instead of reveling in Tennessee comebacks, we will delight in Tennessee Williams.
We will root on the next generation of scientists, teachers, artists, engineers and information technologists, then go home and watch real professional athletes on TV.
And, just so some people don’t feel completely out of their element filing into these shiny library palaces, there will still be a 55-foot-wide HD video screen hanging over the card catalogs, for replays and stuff.
Ask The Slouch
Q. How do you explain – going on 43 years, via the designated hitter – that the American and National Leagues are playing by different rules? (Richard Kim; Lawrence, Ind.)
A. I can’t, but this DH business has foreshadowed the widening polarization of America.
Q. What accounts for this preposterous newfangled tradition of popping corks after winning an MLB wild-card game? ((Bryan Harris; Tucson, Ariz.)
A. Total Wine has great prices on champagne it didn’t offer five years ago.
Q. Your Team of Destiny – the Saints – stinks and your NFL picks on Twitter stink. Do you ever watch the games? (John Phillips; Chicago)
A. Actually, I’ve cut the cord and gone with satellite radio.
Q. Should the presidential debates adopt the NFL’s two personal-foul ejection rule? (Roger Strauss; Silver Spring, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email email@example.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!