I have gone through different stages in my life.
From long hair to shaved (again, way cooler than bald). From student to superintendent, I haven't been out of school since 1972. I've gone from poor to making money and still being poor (why do bills arrive in direct proportion to the amount of money you earn?).
Politically, I've gone from being a Democrat to Republican to Independent to disenchanted to just confused and hurt.
I've also been through stages regarding the amount of importance I place on athletics.
When I was a kid, there was nothing more important.
My world revolved around anything and everything that involved a bat, ball, club, basket, goal or a game.
I knew every player (and their stats... and sadly, birthday) in every league. Including hockey and indoor soccer (Go St. Louis Steamers!!!).
Then I grew up (sort of) and became a coach. I still took sports seriously, but I began to see it wasn't the only thing that mattered.
Losing does that to you.
After giving up coaching (I think it was my decision), I became a school administrator (also, my decision... I think).
At this point in my life, I began to see athletics were just one of the many things that drove me crazy and made my phone ring (landline... old school).
Sports became less fun and more of a hassle.
I began to see athletics as a bother. I was confused as to why parents didn't care about testing as much as they did about sports.
Now I'm starting to come full circle.
Maybe I'm growing. With age comes wisdom (at least that's what old people tell young people). Or more likely, I'm just a little less stupid (I'm so old, I remember when stupid was a bad word in school).
As I head into my golden years, I'm beginning to see there's nothing more important than athletics. Especially to a small town.
It's the one thing that ties people together.
Successful small-town sports are like the Olympics. People will support them even when they don't personally know the participants or understand the game.
I don't have a clue about curling, but I'm the #1 fan every four years when the Winter Olympics is on 27 hours a day (USA! USA! USA!).
Community members behave in much the same way. They may not like football, but if their favorite bag boy at the grocery store is the quarterback...suddenly they have a rooting interest.
They like the feeling they get when their team is doing well.
I'm willing to bet I could go to any town in America and spot a person wearing their high school colors within two minutes.
This is because people love belonging to a group. This feeling is magnified when the group (team) is successful.
Schools and sports can provide this at a local level.
And at a much cheaper price than college or professional sports.
This is why, now and forever, people will always be more passionate about their kids (or neighbors) playing a game than they will about test scores. It's just more fun.
I'm not saying this is right. I'm just saying this is the way it is.
Email Michael Smith/principalspage at firstname.lastname@example.org