October 11, 2018
The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community, but also an open letter to any adult attending high school athletic events:
This may not be the most popular letter I’ve ever written, but I feel a need to write it.
This is an open letter to all adult fans of high school athletic contests. It begins with a simple question: “Is it really necessary to have alcohol at pre-game tailgate parties at high school football games (or any other athletic event)?”
You may be able to guess my answer based on the biased wording of the question.
I think community building is awesome. Putting up a tent, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, serving soft drinks, playing cornhole, talking up the game – all are great ways to lead up to the main event. Inviting fans from the opposing team to join in the festivities? Even better.
Does alcohol need to be a part of the equation? The game will last about 2-1/2 hours. Allowing for a pre-game tailgate and the inevitable post-game analysis, we have 4-5 hours of time invested on a Friday night. I believe foregoing alcohol for those 4-5 hours is in the best interest of our kids.
I have a number of reasons for feeling this way. Allow me to offer two.
First, when alcohol is present at these events, we send a simple yet powerful message to our kids: It is not possible to have fun without alcohol. We can preach to them all we want about the dangers of drinking, and we can offer them assurances ad nauseam that they don’t need alcohol to have a good time. However, when they see adults drinking at high school tailgates, those messages lack sincerity – and teenagers can smell insincerity a mile away.
Second, the purpose of high school athletics is to offer a wholesome, positive experience for our young people. We should be attending these events to support the kids – the players, the cheerleaders, and the student fans. These events are for them. We are there to enhance their experience by our presence and support.
Our kids are bombarded with too many “worldly” messages as it is; they do not need to be receiving mixed messages from the people who love them the most.
I write this knowing that I cannot tell adults what to do. We can post signs all over campus that say “Alcohol-Free Zone” and we can threaten police intervention – but the fact is if adults want to drink at high school football games, they will find a way to do it.
Before you pack your coolers for the next game, I would just ask that you consider this: What is the message I want to send to the hundreds of young people I’ll encounter tonight?
I guarantee you they are watching.