The fast-tracked plan to install a Jumbotron in Hawkins Stadium was not welcome news to this 2001 Manatee High School grad. Call me old school, but I don't see a giant video screen as consonant with the experience that's at the heart of high school football.
Don't get me wrong. As one-time sports editor of Manatee's student newspaper, I appreciate what Hurricane football represents. But do post-millennials (or any of us) really need more technological distractions? Students of every age group are already glued to their phones in a way that was unimaginable for me and my peers.
The beauty of football at the high school level is that it's a healthy marriage of sporting event and social interaction. Classmates, friends, and families gather to cheer the hometown team, but also to mingle on the track and bleachers in a manner that's impossible at college or pro games.
The frenetic interjection of a Jumbotron and souped-up sound system into every aspect of Friday night will diminish this communal atmosphere. Moreover, corporate advertisements surrounding the screen and revamped scoreboard will mar a stadium in which commercialism is still refreshingly minimized.
My collegiate alma mater, Notre Dame, has been one of the few major programs to resist the introduction of a Jumbotron, precisely because it would detract from the stadium experience and traditions, as well as the game itself. This concern should be even more true for Manatee High.
I understand the potential value of a video board for certain non-sporting activities. But glitz will not improve academics nor foster meaningful life lessons. A school board member referred to the Jumbotron as a "reward" because students "deserve the very best." If our youth deserve the best, then we should be eager to preserve for them anything that emphasizes authentic personal interaction within the local community.
Fort Wayne, Ind.