An ESPN columnist wrongly blames "The Cult of Football" for the recent deaths of four teenagers
You messed up, Jeff MacGregor.
You may be one of the nation's best sportswriters, but your column yesterday about heat-related deaths in high school football was a shameful exercise in sloppy thinking. Clearly, like anyone with a conscience, you want these horrible, very avoidable deaths to stop. Obviously, you wrote the piece with the best of intentions. That doesn't excuse, however, your ridiculous assertion that these young players are dying because of "vanity and ambition" in football. At best, the idea is pure hyperbole, distracting attention from the much more likely, and more tangible, culprits. At worst, the column indirectly accuses six, already-grieving men of gross negligence.
After all, Mr. MacGregor, it wasn't "vanity and ambition" in charge of those blistering practice fields in Georgia and South Carolina. "The cult of football" wasn't the one ordering young players to run wind sprints and cone-drills in triple-digit heat. The head coaches did that. They were there, giving orders. Your column carelessly insinuates that the coaches whose players have died are at fault for those deaths. The idea, apparently, is that these six men, with a blood lust for victory, goaded by equally crazy administrators, boosters and parents, were living out their twisted, Bear Bryant/Drill Sargent power fantasies on the practice field, and ended up working their own players to death. That's a pretty serious thing, even to imply. A shred of evidence in support would have been nice.