Alma Mater; Praise to Thee

Tonight, Patterson High School will be participating in the Louisiana state finals of football. In most cases while one is looking at their alma mater’s success they should feel a sense of pride and secondary victory: knowing that the game’s possible winning outcome could shower victory over your homeland, or it’s losing could still give you something worth talking about at the water cooler on Monday morning when you return to work.

While browsing a very popular social media site today, I continually saw on the news feed post after post of “Go Jacks!” or “Who Dat” from the natives of my home land. It made me ill to see that, yet again, the athletics department of PHS was attracting such a mass of people. With a purpose to shock and to get a little rise on the feed I posted the following:

“I hope the Lumberjacks lose tonight... that’s right... I said it.”

I admit that mostly in jest this comment was made, but it wasn’t until after responses were applied to my message of doom that I found that it really upset people. Things along the lines of “those boys worked really hard” and “you shouldn’t say things like that” followed my words. It was then that I actually began to understand my motives and was brought to my reasoning.

Friday night football games still to this day are the place of high school social interaction, and a source of entertainment among “civilians” that live in the local communities. They are an American tradition that will not be tampered with or objected to, however looking back on my high school experience I can only recall fowl memories of these events.

I was an budding artist back in those days. Unable to be rejected by my peers, I struggled to find my place among the Friday night lights. I was not an athlete, but I was quite good at making a fool of myself; being the mascot was an appropriate place for me to call my territory. I was the jester among the warriors, maids in waiting, and--the least of these--the minstrels. In my freshman year of high school I got to experience, along the sidelines the soldiers, what it is to make it to the super dome and then experience failure. It was a sad thing when we lost. The community disbanded from that moment in time and we moved on.

Two years later I was upstaged by a more deserving idiot, and I found myself ripped from my large plastic head: banished to south side of the bleachers among the minstrels. Although it was a place where not much respect was given for our musical talent unless we were playing the anthems and war cries of our people, I found, as a musician, it was where I was most accepted and appreciated. 

It was there, among the cymbals and drums, that I began to see a certain unfairness within our educational institution. Within the following years of my high school career it became more clear who was ranked the lowest in value among each sector of the Friday night tradition. When the distance of the battles became great the musicians were not allotted the funds to participate within the event.

To further display our place among the athletes, we would practice our half time routines on the baseball field. This required applying lines to mock the 100 yards that was a football field. During the fall was when marching band was in session and baseball was not. There were many times when we were not permitted to use the field because the head baseball coach thought that it would be damaging to the land: leading to the musicians being inadequately prepared to perform.

I spoke to Chris Costa--an alumni of Patterson High School who graduated at the top of his class, about the effects of an over aggressive athletics department and he had this to say:

“I feel that in any school that allows extracurricular activity to take prominence over it’s students academic success is already crossing the line into a dangerously lacking educational experience. The effect is severely magnified in schools representing small towns or communities because now the citizens, in their over-zealous support of said activities, are actually encouraging the school systems to allocate both attention and funds unevenly.”

But the problem doesn’t just run within the financial and political realms of the high school culture. Being an athlete makes you somewhat of a celebrity, says Francheska Rebardi, a graduate of PHS in the class of 2006. She supports the athletics department by saying, “I believe that PHS’s athletic department gave hope of a future in sports to those talented athletes in such a small community.” And there is a real idea of hope; Patterson, Louisiana has spun off many very successful athletes, some of which made it to play the game professionally.

However, with such a dream ahead of you, one can put themselves in a place of egoism, not to mention that place of celebrity that their peers allow them to be in. Chase Broussard of the graduating class of ’08 quite often found himself victim of this. “Growing up around athletes and an athletically encouraged community, especially as a homosexual male not even mildly interested in sports or taking part in male rituals, was at best awkward,” he says:

“There is a certain quality of our culture that attributes success as a male being physically adept: something leftover in our DNA from the hunter/gatherer days. Being a boy who was introverted and interested in the arts, eccentric ideas, and NOT sports could be enough to get one labeled as a school shooter in the making in a high school setting.”

I must point out the obvious that the opinions expressed here are not that of the masses, but I believe that it is very important that we realize the effect of what our school spirit is doing and has done to our minorities within the educational institutions. Athletics have dominated and leeched from all areas within education.

From academics to the arts, sports will always prevail and bring in the most money for an institution; this is something that I have found to be a great injustice among our local communities and our American culture. With that said I will close with an obligatory tip of the hat to the young gentlemen playing on the field in New Orleans on this evening, but I will not condone the success of a department--or institution for that matter--that continues to deny the success to all areas of the human condition other than football.