Maryville’s 42-24 win against rival Alcoa was a game of epic proportions for local sports fans in East Tennessee. But the game that is meant to be played for the pure enjoyment of playing football has transcended the normal atmosphere that would surround it due to the broadcasting of the game by ESPN2.
This high school game was meant to showcase football before the regulations, legal ramifications or overall disruption from a ruling committee can taint the purity of the sport of football. Instead, it was rather an event in which the audience was treated to an obscure commercialization of an innocent game.
There can be no overlooking the commercialization of football at any level. Professional and collegiate programs are signing and have been signing deals with sports apparel companies from Adidas, Nike, Under Armour or any other available brand. But there is now an intrusion into the high school game by these same companies or others like them. The question must be asked, to what point or degree are these companies involved and why?
No mistake can be made in noticing that today’s top high school programs well represent the top brands of athletic apparel, as may be seen with Alcoa’s representation of Under Armour or Maryville’s Nike uniforms. These companies are regularly represented by today’s high school athletes with no real benefits going towards these student athletes. ESPN2 showcased two top teams in Tennessee football, and while there was a great game played by both teams, to an outside observer it appeared more as a battle between Nike and Under Armour on the field rather than two high school teams battling for dominance in a high school rivalry that has existed for years.
The high school game is meant to be an enjoyable time in which students are simply playing to have fun. There are no concentrations by what these players on who they represent beyond themselves, their team and their school.
ESPN2 may initially appear to have good intentions, but what may be seen under the surface is a game marred by companies seeking to expand their exposure and increase their popularity by pushing their brands on high school programs. Though that is not to say that ESPN2 is innocent as well, there would have not been any broadcast if there was not money to be made in the venture. The trade off for these programs and players is the hope that they gain some notoriety or the players can gain some attention from college scouts.
The question that must really must answered is if this trade off is fair or equal for these students, because they are the true stars of these events.