Gazzolo: If you can't beat 'em, boot 'em

By By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

We have a new saying in sports: “If you can’t beat ’em, vote ’em out.”

Catchy.

Problem is, it goes against what sports used to be about and leads us to what it has become.

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association has voted to split select and nonselect schools into two playoff tournaments.

Sort of a winner-take-some mentality.

After years of trying to get this done, the votes finally came.

So, unable to win on the field, the public school folks — sorry nonselect — decided to win off the field.

Hey, a win’s a win.

Maybe the new saying should be more like, “Can’t beat’ em, boot’ em.”

Yeah, I like that better.

Ah, the good old days when high school sports was about building character, learning to overcome adversity and teaching about

more than wins and losses. You know, when being the best meant beating the best.

Not now. Politics have taken over, again.

The game is no longer in the hands of the players, coaches or officials. It is in the hands of the state’s lawmakers.

The select, or private schools — you know, the ones who were given the boot — have vowed to fight on.

They don’t want to take their ball — and championship trophies — and head home. Instead, they want to play with the guys who

don’t want to play with them.

So they are going to court, but first they asked the leaders of the state to take a look at the case.

Is this really what we want our elected officials to be talking about?

Look around, there seems to be bigger problems to deal with other than who should play what and when.

I would rather the members of the state Legislature worry about such things like the budget, unemployment and maybe even school

safety and achievement.

Taking even one moment of the day to even try and figure this out is way too much time.

Let’s face it, we are never going to have a full separation of church and state, so why even think we can dream of this when

it comes to the separation of state and sports is beyond me.

For the record, my wife is a leader in Catholic education and St. Louis High will be greatly affected by this decision. I,

however, am a product of public schools so that plays no part in my opinion.

Also for the record, I’m not totally against the separation, but I don’t believe state lawmakers should get involved. To their

credit, those officials have told the LHSAA to fix it so we don’t have to.

Solid advice.

Honestly, if there were enough good

teams in the state I could care less about the separation thing. It’s

all watered down

anyway. But here is the problem: this state doesn’t have enough

good teams now to have five quality state championship playoffs

in football, let alone other sports.

Adding more teams would even water down the titles more. Not every kid should play for a title. Not every child deserves a

trophy.

Some players are better, some programs greater.

But in these days of political

correctness, that gets lost. Sports is about teaching how to both win

and lose the right way.

I never heard a coach in all my years tell me if we can’t beat

them, we will just get rid of them. Now, with all these championships

and all these playoff rounds, more kids will make the postseason.

We could even see one- and two-win clubs be rewarded with

playoff spots. It makes the regular season worthless.

I prefer only district champs getting into the postseason, but I would take a plus-.500 mark for starters. Do that, and I

jump on board the splitting of the ways.

Instead, the public schools (nonselect) have decided that winning a watered-down state title is better than not winning one

at all.

I wonder what will happen when these public school folks find out there is more interest in the private school title games,

with more fans and more money going to them.

I fear the whining is just beginning.

Or, when the kids grow up and learn not everybody in life gets a trophy. There are winners and losers. Companies promote on

merit, not participation.

There is, of course, concerns about unfair recruiting, but those who worry about that have only one eye focused on the problem.

Do they really believe recruiting doesn’t take place in public (select) schools?

Also, the public schools better take a long, hard look at their own rosters to see just how many kids from outside their area

are playing for them.

Coaches in glass gyms should not throw stones, let alone boulders.

Kids and parents will always flock to winning programs to give their children the best possible exposure they can so colleges

might come calling with scholarships. That is the true end game of high school sports, not winning championships.

If you argue that every kid deserves a chance to play in the playoffs, next year I want all those who utter those words to

make sure every kid on their team who dresses out gets into every game.

The private schools are left with two options. They can either stay with the LHSAA and have their own playoffs or they can

form their own association.

Better watch out, this could prove costly.

If there is a split, sponsors will be forced to decide. State Farm, one of the biggest LHSAA backers, is one of those.

“I don’t know how that would impact our sponsorship,” said Gary Stevenson, a spokesman for State Farm. “That would have to

be looked at closely.

“Our sponsorship contract is with the

LHSAA at the present. We have certainly valued this sponsorship through

the years, and

have enjoyed supporting the student-athletes of Louisiana in this

important part of their high school and educational experience.

At this time, I’m not able to speculate on any future sponsorship

plans or decisions. At this point I would not speculate

on something that hasn’t happened.”

In other words, they want to keep their options open if things change on the bayou.

Money follows money.

If the private schools end up outdrawing the public, I’m sorry, select schools outdraw the nonselect, then there might be

an issue.

Would the selects really leave to form their own?

While select school officials won’t come out and say so, they have admitted it is an option.

It’s a mess and it could become a costly mess.

I hope the nonselect schools have all their chips in the right pile. If not, an old saying might work best: “Don’t mess with

a good thing.”

Better yet, “Sponsorship money doesn’t grow on trees.”

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Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com