Unless you're just getting back from the Cannes Film Festival or something else far afield, you have seen the video from Texas that shows two high school football players slamming into referee Robert Watts. John Jay High School, named for our nation's first chief justice, was playing Marble Falls on one of those Friday night games down in the Lone Star State, a state in which high school football is regarded as almost as important as education itself. Remember, textbook publishers desirous of selling their products down there have to include misinformation and distortions in the books, or ring up a "NO SALE." For instance, they have to include Moses among our founding fathers, although there is no reason to believe that The Lawgiver hung around long enough to enjoy a stay in Colonial America.
The investigation is ongoing and may take some time. The players, who are not being identified, have been booted off the football team and suspended from school, possibly to face criminal charges. The players claim that the referee uttered racial slurs, a charge denied by his attorney.
John Jay officials say that 2004 graduate Mack Breed, an assistant coach for the team and a 2004 graduate of the school, allegedly made a suggestion to the team, a suggestion that the referee "needs to pay for cheating us." This, of course, leads to the notion that the players took their foolish action in order to please the coach, who is also suspended while all this is sorted out.
Tarrant County sheriff Dee Anderson, who has refereed high school and college ball for over 30 years, said, "I had to play it back a couple of times just to believe what I saw. We all understand that you get hit out there, but this is so violent and so premeditated that I believe it deserves some very stern consequences."
Back in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, a fan of the fairly new game of football, brought people from the major universities to the White House to discuss how their teams could improve the game of football, "especially by reducing the element of brutality in play," The Washington Post wrote in an article in October of that year.
In 1905, at least 18 people died and more than 150 were injured playing football. It's accepted as truth that, had the president not intervened at that time, the game might have ceased to exist, and then we would be facing life with an unemployed Terry Bradshaw on our hands, and we wouldn't like that at all.
It will take a lot of testimony from a lot of people to get to the truth of all this, whether in fact the referee made offensive comments, or whether the coach was angered by some tough calls the ref had made or whether other factors were at play. We know what happened, all right, but we don't know why.
We could use another Teddy Roosevelt to straighten this all out.