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What Killed Backyard Football Games?

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:03am

Photo courtesy of Jayel Aheram

I remember growing up as a kid enjoying many fall afternoons playing pick-up football games with neighborhood kids. We would roam from yard to yard (according to which kid has the most forgiving father, or at least one who cared the least about his yard).  Often times we played until it was too dark to see the ball, or the utility pole that never failed as a sure tackler.  Something has changed across the suburbs of America, and I’m not sure what is to blame.

Lawsuits End Backyard Football

Who knows all the reasons for the death of the neighborhood sporting scene.  If I were to venture a guess at a few of the excuses parents and kids would use to scuttle a neighborhood whiffle ball game I’d bring up things like injuries, lawyers and video games.

Parents today are terrified of another person’s child getting injured on their property, and for good reason.  With lawyer offices on ever corner ready, willing and able to file suit for any semblance of negligence, parents now think twice over letting their kids clothesline each other during five on five scrimmages.  When I was a kid, injuries were part of playing hard.  If someone got hurt, somebody’s mom came out with a bag of ice or frozen peas and plopped it on the injury.  If the injury was too bad to ride home on a bike, she called the other mom to come pick up the wounded.  No big deal.  In today’s society this same scenario would probably end in a fist fight, lawsuit, or at a minimum, hurt feelings (or all of the above!).

Video Games Are Not a Substitute for Real Sports

Video games have gotten a bad rap in the media, and based on a few titles I’ve seen in action, rightfully so. However, there are plenty of benign games out there, even ones with some redeeming qualities such as those that improve hand/eye coordination or problem-solving skills.  The problem is that parents have not balanced video game baseball with the requirement to engage in real-life activities.  I think at a minimum kids should have to play outside in equal times that they play video games.  So if kids want to play Madden Football on their XBox 360 (and who could blame them) for an hour, then they have to play outside for at least an hour.  They will probably gripe and complain, but at least they will grow up to understand balance–minimizing the chance they pull video game all-nighters in college.

Have you noticed a decline in kids playing outside in your neighborhood?

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