This column also appeared in the print edition of the Prospector released this Tueday.
By Andrew Barr
We have always been fortunate to have an excellent athletic program at Prospect, led by a motivated and dynamic staff. Our football team is one of the best in the state, our soccer team is top notch and our cross country and track programs are second to none. But when one considers these impressive records, one cannot help but wonder exactly why we have been able to be competitive in so many events for so many years.
The answer lies in a number of factors: student participation, funding, community and school support and training. Any athlete at Prospect will tell you that the training aspect of any team is very important, and it is in any organization that requires person to person interaction and cooperation.
There is a certain proud air that surrounds the heavily armored individuals who, each week for our viewing pleasure, risk life and limb to move a small leather object from one side of the field to the other. In short, the Prospect football team is a paramilitary organization; that is what makes it the great team that it is.
Can you imagine if our football team did not have the Patton-esqe figure of head coach Brent Pearlman constantly rallying his “troops” to crushing victory? Alas, I cannot. Can you imagine a weight room that does not also lend its voice to the chorus of Prospect jingoism, through its cheerful placards proclaiming “WANT IT? TAKE IT. QUIT OR FIGHT.”? I cannot bring myself to envision such a scene.
The football team’s militaristic method of practice and discipline does it a great service. Commitment is demanded and maintained because of the martial standards in place. If other school organizations like the Debate Team, Student Council and Mathletes followed the example of the football team, it is certain that they would find themselves more competitive and more cohesive as a unit.
Before we examine how these non-athletic clubs could benefit from following the football team’s example, it is important to realize just how militaristic the football team is. First of all, we have a “field captain” (Pearlman) in command of the “troops” and the “tactics” with which the team engages the “enemy.” The lieutenants, the assistant coaches, (Mike Sebestyen et al.) are responsible for the smaller units’ identification and implementation of strategy. The “field sergeants,” or the player captains, enforce the orders of the hierarchy on the field and during the course of play. The quarterback and the middle linebacker relay the orders of the commander to the rank-and-file members of the team. There is an intelligence arm, responsible for the “film” that is invaluable to the team in analyzing the enemy’s tactics. There are also recruiters who, much like those affiliated with the armed services, offer juicy college scholarships for athletic prowess rather than academic ability.?
It has been said that a primary reason for the football team’s success is the long hours spent together exercising in practice. While I am aware that other clubs and organizations also meet during the week, the hour-long indoor meeting that many clubs call “practice” does not come close to the three-plus hours of grueling, dirty and bone-crushing intensity that the football team endures on a daily basis.
So, while the Mathletes are eating scones and discussing differential equations, the football team is slamming repeatedly into each other at high speeds, stopping only when someone breaks an arm. This sort of intensity is what our academic clubs need — real bonding doesn’t happen over juice, crackers and philosophical discussion — bonding happens when you are being loaded into an ambulance by your teammates chanting, “We’re still No. 1.” The obvious solution is for the Mathletes to utilize a more physical means of training. I have no doubt that they would benefit from borrowing the football team’s padding and doing tackling drills while calculating force vectors and drag coefficients.
Imagine the progress that could occur with Mr. Briody ruling the Math Department with an iron fist, or with Mr. Bianchi in dominion over the second floor. What gains could be made! But alas, we are afraid. Our academic clubs and organizations aren’t performing at the level of our athletic teams, simply because we don’t have the courage to follow in the footsteps of Prospect football.
Some people object to the notion of extending the bellicose attitudes of football to non-athletic clubs and organizations. To them, I say that militarism is as American as baseball, apple pie and the firebombing of Dresden. These attitudes are not only prevalent in age-old American texts and governmental doctrines; we espouse these ideals every day through our vernacular. How many times have you heard “I bombed that test,” “I shot him down,” “He’s a real trooper” or “He’s a tank”? This country owes most of its success to the strength of its military, so it’s no wonder that combative language has made its way into our everyday speech.
To object to the idea of militarism in our football program spreading to the academic sector is to disavow the great benefit that martial attitudes and doctrines have had on the United States and the world as a whole. As English historian Thomas Fuller observed, “It is war that shapes peace, and armament that shapes war.” Think of Prospect High School as an “arsenal of freedom,” furnishing us with the armaments of knowledge, skill and proper attitude, so that we may prove worthy soldiers and citizens of the United States.