Ball or Bands: Football vs Music as an Educational and Community Investment by John Gerdy

The Question

  • The fundamental purpose of this book is to analyze the cost/benefit ratio as it applies to the extracurricular activities of football and music. Both are vehicles through which to advance community priorities through the educational system. Football is targeted here due to its status as the top and most expensive sport in most schools. John picks music over other extra curricular activities as it is the one he is most familiar with. Music and sports are also often pitted against each other for funding. Although football started as a college club sport, it wasn’t long before the schools took over as it became too import to be left alone. John sees football as a great activity to prepare a workforce for an industrial economy that we no longer have.

Impact on Personal and “Character” Development

  • Here John concludes that music is every bit as effective as football in building character by teaching lessons in discipline, teamwork, tolerance, leadership, and building a positive identity in young people. The athletic establishment has perpetuated the myth that football is uniquely qualified to teach these lessons, and their claims have been echoed by the media. Football’s teaching style is better suited to the industrial age. Both activities build pride, self confidence, and self esteem, but both are not viewed equally by the school community. From pep rallies to newspaper coverage, it’s clear that football players are more likely to be kings of the culture. While some musicians are noted as party animals and drug users, athletes are also prominent party animals.
  • Coaches and parents push players to excel with the idea that they will succeed at the next level. The promise of college scholarships and work in the NFL are seductive but usually not realistic. While there are a few parents pressuring their musical children to excel, they are far fewer in number. Perhaps the biggest difference is that musicians can play for the rest of their life while football players are usually finished with football after their last game. Football skills are also hard to transfer into the classroom, and the time spent preparing for games can cause studies to suffer. The athletic stereotype of the “dumb jock” even reduces the pressure to perform academically.
  • Another big difference is the steady rise of the win at all cost environment. This leads to the coddling of athletes, which can haunt them when the coddling ends. This is not seen in the music department. Another problem with football is that the farther you go, the more likely you are to end up in trouble. If you do make it to the NFL you can look forward to a less than four-year career and a 78% chance of having financial stress due to joblessness or divorce. You are also prone to problems involving drugs and alcohol. Life after football can be difficult. The conclusion is that the sooner you get out, the better for most. At the same time, music is more about participation than getting to Carnegie Hall.
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