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

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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