Column by Ken Cohen
I was looking at the schedules for area high school football games and was disappointed to see that several teams are playing all of their home games on Friday nights. I understand that Friday Night Football is the “thing” now and is somewhat of a social event for the community. But in a couple of ways it's not ideal, especially in these times: the cost of lighting for four or five home games might be able to save a modified program. Also, it's difficult to bring young children to the game they simply end too late.
I have memories of going to my brother's high school games in Liberty as a 10 and 11-year old, running around with other kids, having a good time and then going out to dinner with my family and other families. I think that kind of community socialization has been lost. It was also a nice bonus for local restaurants and businesses. When a Friday night game ends at 10 p.m., there is no post-game dinner or snack afterwards. There is nothing open.
In Bethlehem, New York, they switched to day games a few years ago as a way to trim costs from the budget. The District estimated it saved $10,000 by eliminating night games for the entire season. I read where one Florida high school claims it costs $500 just to turn the lights on for every game. I’m not sure if those numbers are comparable here, but there’s no question there is an additional price to pay by having night games. I think it’s safe to say that some schools which have cut back on modified sports programs could help preserve them by dimming the lights.
Yes, there was some outcry in Bethlehem that doing away with the Friday night games had an anti-social effect. The night games had become the main activity in the small community. It kept kids from doing other less-desirable things on a Friday night.
I’m not sure I can buy into that message. A football game in a small community is a big deal no matter what day or time it’s played. If it’s held on Saturday afternoon, that gives the people something to do on that day. Why is there so much emphasis put on socializing on Friday night as compared to Saturday afternoon? I go to fairs in the summer on weekend afternoons and they are packed. People are looking for activities and social opportunities whenever they may be held.
I realize that many schools made a big outlay installing lights and don’t want to see it go for naught. But different times and economic situations call for appropriate actions. I feel this is when we should be trying to save a program or possibly a job rather than looking after an investment.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.