My son is with the Southwestern Sabers football team, and I have noticed some things this year that make me wonder about whether the powers that be in Baltimore City athletics are more concerned with dynasty preservation than a level playing field for all young athletes in the city. Here goes:
- For those who aren’t aware, Southwestern doesn’t really exist anymore. The Southwestern teams consist of kids from 4 small-enrollment schools (1 of them 80-90% girls) with 4 different dismissal times. Some kids have to wait about 1-1/2 hours from the end of school to the start of practice. There are a couple of other schools in the area that aren’t included for some reason, despite not having their own sports teams. That’s how Baltimore City schools got an opponent with a roster mirroring a small 1A school and the 4A points of a super-sized educational facility.
- There are 20 or 21 young men playing football for the team this year. Only 3 previously played on the JV; most have little or no previous football experience.
- Southwestern was assigned to Baltimore City’s “Div. 1” for football in 2011. Douglass had an 8-2 record last year in Div. 1, but was moved to Div. 2. They still get the 4A schools on their schedule (Southwestern and Mervo), which should enhance their point totals for playoff purposes. Digital Harbor is also looking play-off bound since moving from Div. 1.
- Southwestern is in Div. 2 for basketball and does well.
- The football field is in such bad condition that last week’s officials insisted that the game be played “half-court” to avoid the dangerous terrain in one of the end zones.
- Rumor has it that City won’t (or at least hasn’t) gone to the “Southwestern” field for games; Southwestern “home” games against City are played at Poly.
Despite all of this, the Sabers have gotten better throughout this year. They have worked hard, bonded as a team as much as one could expect given the 4-school roster, and I am proud of my son and his efforts. It was hard to watch the City game, and their well-respected coach throw a 5-10 minute hissy fit on the field over a penalty he felt was unfair (City was up by about 30 points in the 1st half), or the game-ending rush to pile more points on the scoreboard. Poly was just as bad – with a running clock, their offense was throwing the ball and focusing on getting into the endzone; a Sabers player complained to an official about one of the Poly players spitting on him repeatedly and intentionally. The official ignored him. At the season opener against Douglass, at least one coach was taunted as he left the stadium.
I think Baltimore City’s school choice policy should walk the walk – student athletes are entitled to a fair shake regardless of their choice in where they attend school. Young men and women with athletic talent shouldn’t have to choose between their academic and athletic futures. Bragging rights over the number of city teams in the playoffs are pretty hollow if any part of that “success” is at the expense of student athletes that decided not to go to City, Poly, Douglass or Dunbar for athletics.
Southwestern football has not beaten a single opponent currently in Division 1 in at least 10 years (even before Southwestern closed and the 4-school teams were formed). These young men deserve a level playing field and a legitimate chance to build a program even if moving them to Div 2 or 3 deprives the traditional powerhouses of the 4A points.