Sports column: Thursday games steal some of football’s appeal

Published 7:50 am Thursday, October 24, 2019

For generations, part of football’s mystique was how it was a game built on blood and guts and courage. Players would fight through pain and mud for a single yard and glory. Not only was being wet, dirty and cold not a deterrent, it was part of the allure. You put yourself through hell to get to heaven.

Fast forward to 2019. We’ve wisely eased up on the playing through pain part. The mud is going away as more schools switch to artificial turf. Now we’re working on eliminating the bad weather.

For the second time in three weeks, Mississippi’s high school football community is undergoing a weather-related panic normally reserved for the first snow flurries of winter. A slew of games this week, including Vicksburg at Canton, were moved up 24 hours to Thursday because of the threat of rain.

As with anything, there is some sound logic behind this that ought to be cleared up in the spirit of fairness.

In late September there were a number of games one Friday night that had to be suspended or postponed because of thunderstorms. You can play through rain, but not lightning. In the same vein, travel and fan safety is also a consideration.

There is a financial aspect to it. Playing on a nice, calm Thursday night might pull in a crowd of a thousand. Playing on a rainy Friday might draw double digits.
Homecoming celebrations might be affected. That’s why the Vicksburg-Canton game was moved, so that Canton’s homecoming court could dress in formal wear instead of rain slickers.

All of that said, the decision by dozens of schools to move games, en masse, robs something vital from the sport.

The Vicksburg Warren School District, as well as a number of others in Mississippi, have invested millions of dollars to install artificial turf fields. One of the selling points for that transition was to be able to play games in any sort of weather without fear of turning the field into a muddy, torn-up mess. Now that we have them, everybody is turning into sugar cubes, afraid they’ll melt at the first raindrop.

Some of the greatest, most memorable games in football history have involved bad weather — the worse the better. Anyone who ever played is flashing back right now to a rain game. It’s part of the game, and part of what makes it great.

Instead of turf, maybe we should go big and see how much it costs to put domes over our high school fields.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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