Shooting is the logical choice to replace football

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Edgar Allen Beem in his Aug. 23 column, The Universal Notebook, writes, “Time to boycott, or ban, football” and he cites CTE as the reason to do so. His focus is primarily on professional football, but the effects begin at the high school level, so the ban needs to start there.

Along with the injuries and deaths caused by football, I don’t think enough emphasis has been placed on the fact that the attributes (I don’t say “qualities” because that has a positive connotation) which contribute to success in football are the opposite of those we need in everyday life. So we constantly have incidents of violent, criminal, off-the-field behavior by – and arrests of – professional football players.

If we scrap high school football programs, what might we offer as a replacement sport? I propose shooting, for the following reasons:

Shooting is safe. When was the last time there was a serious injury at Camp Perry, or the Olympics?

Shooting builds character. When was the last time a member of the U. S. Olympic Shooting Team was arrested for a serious crime?

Shooting provides a disincentive for any type of “performance enhancing” drugs, stimulants, or steroid use. And because the sport is safe, no opioid-based medications need be prescribed (or otherwise obtained) for the participants.

Shooting is inexpensive. Once beyond the initial purchase of high-quality target rifles (which will last a long time), .22 rimfire ammunition and paper targets – all inexpensive – are all you need.

Shooting is gender-neutral. Girls can compete equally with boys, so there is no need for separate boys’ and girls’ teams.

Russell Frank


  • EdBeem

    We had a rifle team wen I was in high school 50 years. I wonder how many Maine schools have a rifle team today?

    • EdBeem

      Apparently, five Maine high schools – Gardiner, Maine Central Institute, Brewer, Bangor and Cony of Augusta – have varsity shooting programs.

  • Chew H Bird

    We also had a rifle team, and I taught riflery at summer camp while I was still in high school. As for football, lessons not mentioned in this article include dedication and an understanding of teamwork for team success and the ability to plan and engineer strategies for success in a competitive environment…

    • Ted Markow

      Can those lessons also not apply to flag football and/or other team sports?

      I know many American football fans would rather see hard hitting and tackling, but maybe what’s needed is to open up a necessary discussion about who we really are. Do we like dedication, teamwork, planning, and strategizing…or do we really watch for the violence?

      My own opinion is not hard to discern.

      • Chew H Bird

        I think we need to determine where the line is drawn between physical contests and actual violence. I remember playing “King of the Hill” in grade school on a gravel pile with full approval (and probably much smirking) by the teachers of the time. We also had other childhood games with un-politically correct names that involved all kinds of rough physical contact.

        What about Roller Derby? Is that violent? Is wresting violent? Rugby? Hockey? Where do we draw the line?

        • Ted Markow

          Well, I think we can start by drawing the line at the prevalence of concussions and CTEs. And while occasional knocks to the head are unavoidable, sports that promote them should be looked at first – especially when young people are engaged in them.

          As to other concussive sports – the line will be drawn where society draws it. First, we have to be educated:

          • Chew H Bird

            I agree that common sense and many medical studies point to increase risks associated with the brain in activities that often increase head trauma injuries. I disagree that watching football correlates to a desire to watch violence. I suspect most of us enjoy watching the highest levels of competition in the defined activities of sport, whether that be football, other ball sports, auto racing, equestrian events, physical contests suck as boxing or wrestling, or whatever…

            To me, the issue is whether the actual mechanics of the game, focused on people who are not yet adults, are of sufficient risk to modify an activity, (in this case football), until such age as individuals can legally make decisions about participating at a higher level involving head to head contact.

          • Ted Markow

            We don’t let kids smoke or drive or drink or do many other things that have been proven to be detrimental to their/our health. These are laws that have evolved based on science, common sense, and subsequent societal shifts.

            There is mounting evidence that multiple blows to the head leads to brain trauma and in some cases, dementia. There is also evidence that the earlier that trauma starts, the earlier the problems start. I see no justifiable reason for allowing young people (especially high school and earlier) to be subjected to violent sports that promote brain trauma.

            And yes, American football is a violent sport.

          • Chew H Bird

            Change takes time. When I was in school cigarettes were sold at the school store, the drinking age was 18 and it was common to have a few beers with teachers on weekends.

  • Ted Markow

    Small bore rifle shooting is a great sport and I agree that it would be easier on young brains than football. Of course, all range rules have to be strictly followed or there goes the benefit.

    I was on my high school’s rifle team in the early 70’s. I remember talking my rifle and ammo to the office before school started and picking them up before practice and meets. I wonder how that works now.

  • Francis Erdman

    Sure, yeah, It is not like we have mass shootings almost weekly in the country. Oh wait…