Over the years, I have written many words trying to explain why football is the king sport on campus. I am beginning to doubt the validity of that long-held belief. I still love high school football, but even I have to acknowledge its grip on campuses and communities seems to be slipping.
Two weeks ago, Petaluma played a Saturday afternoon game at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. There were barely enough home folks in the stands to fill a good-sized bus stop. Last week, when the Trojans played at Terra Linda in San Rafael there were even fewer spectators. If the freshmen and junior varsity players hadn’t stuck around, the home stands might have been declared a historical monument. It should be noted that at both games, Petaluma’s visiting fans out numbered the home crowd.
It might be that Saturday afternoon games — and non-league games at that — don’t attract the attention of the students or maybe there is a different mind set about sports in Marin County where the emphasis tends to be on active rather than spectator sports. There is nothing wrong with that. Going for a bike ride or kayaking on the bay is certainly much healthier than eating a hot dog in the stands.
But I’ve noticed a decline in attendance even at local games. And, it isn’t just the numbers. It might be just me getting older, but it seems to be a decline in the excitement. It isn’t something measurable. It is just a feeling.
My own theory is that there are many other sports pulling at students. Kids prefer to be participants rather than spectators, and the more students diversify, so do their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They, rightfully, want to see their favorite play whatever sport he or she has chosen.
Then there is competition from all the media. College football, pro football, previews, recaps, every home has a 50-yard line seat for major events. The thought briefly crossed my mind to skip Petaluma’s Saturday afternoon game to watch the Alabama-Texas A&M college spectacular. Even at the high school game, people had their misnomered “phones” blinking as they checked the scores.