Friday night football has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the coronavirus. It’s difficult to say anything good has come from this nuisance which has stretched past six months, but there …
Friday night football has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the coronavirus. It’s difficult to say anything good has come from this nuisance which has stretched past six months, but there is one.
For the past two Fridays I ventured into the menu on my smart TV (defined as smarter than the owner), scrolled through YouTube, found Mineola football, and voila, there in full color, high definition were those bright orange Yellowjackets on the wide screen. The band looked great, too.
It was wonderful. Could have even seen the homecoming ceremony had I arrived home earlier.
But unless something changes, this will be our last season to see something that should have happened years ago: Watching Friday night Texas high school football from the comfort of home.
The University Interscholastic League, governing body for Texas high school sports, academic and music competitions, has banned the practice for decades, starting with television and then expanding to internet broadcasts when technology made that possible.
To be clear, the prohibition impacts only Friday night football games. Thursday and Saturday games are OK as are all other sports.
But not football and not on Friday night.
The reasoning, I suppose, has to do with protecting the gate – the number of fans who show up and pay to sit in the stands and buy programs, popcorn and booster gear.
I get that, on some level. If you want to see the game, you’ve got to attend. Otherwise, in some markets, you can listen to a radio broadcast.
For years the TV prohibition naturally extended only to those markets that had local TV stations. The internet changed all that but did nothing to change the collective minds of the UIL.
There are myriad arguments why live broadcasts would boost local teams. It starts with something the NFL and NCAA have known for years, called building the brand. You can catch just about every pro and college team live on TV every weekend. And yet those 100,000-seat stadiums remain packed (until this year, at least).
Now I understand it’s a little different with a team in a larger market like Austin or College Station compared to say, Mineola or Quitman.
But I don’t think folks will stay home in droves just because they can watch live. The experience of attending the game is what draws the paying customers. It simply can’t be captured on a screen. You can’t replace the excitement, the pageantry and the camaraderie – on the field and off.
There will be some exceptions, like when it’s 40 degrees and raining with a stiff north wind and your team has no chance to make the playoffs.
But by having the broadcasts available and building that brand, you circulate the team’s draw to a much wider audience. The best example is grandma and grandpa who live too far away to make all five home games or any of the road games. But they will watch with interest every week online when their grandson is playing.
And during those aforementioned games played in miserable conditions, those who just simply shouldn’t venture out on such a horrid night wouldn’t be penalized.
I’m hoping that the experiment of allowing broadcasts during the pandemic will show once and for all that Friday night Texas football will not be hurt by having the games available for viewing but instead help expand its reach and attraction.