Following is an open letter to the Mountain View Los Altos Union School District Board of Trustees.
Years ago, I wrote you a letter that suggested it might be time to discontinue tackle football as an after-school sport at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools.
In particular, I raised the prospect of serious injuries – especially when poor teams play much better opponents. While there are always some players on the football team at each of our public high schools that might go on to play at a two-year or four-year college, for most, playing football ends with high school. What continues are the effects of injuries – including to brains.
There are plenty of other sports to offer in high school that are less injurious. I suggested that a basic athletic education would best include self-defense and dance – two disciplines useful for much of later life.
I wrote at a time when the NFL was finally being challenged over injuries including concussions. I suggested parents determined to give their boys a chance at the NFL could always send them to private high schools, which are much better at football training than were (and are) Mountain View and Los Altos high schools.
It was interesting that following my letter, Mountain View and Los Altos football teams met for their annual battle under the lights at Foothill College. Los Altos prevailed for the first time in many years, and the Mountain View coach was quoted in a newspaper explaining that nearly half of his starters had been unable to play because of injuries.
What inspires me to write you as you consider adding lights for the football stadium at each high school are some current news accounts.
I see that a former Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders had multiple surgeries and now has great trouble even moving around. I see that a head football coach fired by Baylor University for overseeing and covering up sexual assaults by his football players has been hired to resume coaching at a high school in Texas. Students deserve better role models than that coach. And I see that some students at the student newspaper at Palo Alto High had the sense and nerve to stop doing something that likely has been doing far more harm than good for decades: that is, publishing a map and list of where seniors plan to go to college.
Tradition can be valuable and may be based on good ideas – but we should not continue a tradition shown to be unwise.
Gary Wesley is a Mountain View resident and attorney.