Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get real. We don’t get into this profession or perform its duties very long without finding a few things about high school sports that royally tick us off. And both of us are prone to beat up ourselves more than we do others, so we aren’t throwing stones.

Plus, it has become a tradition in this space each year to expose something that either we dislike about high school football or would change if given the opportunity to be its czar for a day. So I’ll start with a specific issue that I believe impacts the action on the field because, well, it contains the action on the field: Stadium construction.

I’m not one of these anti-technology, pooh-poohers of progress who objects to artificial turf. That new wrinkle is decidedly beneficial for Maine and its unpredictable fall weather. Anybody who played in the regional championship games in 2014, a day after our first snowstorm of the year, likely would agree. 

What I can’t stand is when they build that beautiful playing surface, surround it with a track complex large enough to host the Pan American Games, throw in a drainage system and lights, set back the chain-link fence another 10 feet, and then, ONLY then, install the shiny metal bleachers and standing room.

It’s a perfectly valid way to construct an all-purpose field, one that looks dashingly handsome in social media photos. It’s also a horrible way to build a football atmosphere. I covered my latest game in such an environment this past week, and it might as well have been played in a glass bubble.

Players can’t hear the cheering crowd. Spectators don’t have a good look at the action. Heck, in this configuration, substitute players were farther away from the game than fans would be in Livermore Falls, Turner or Fairfield. It just isn’t how high school football was meant to be played. A field, a sideline area that’s about 15 feet deep, and a velvet rope. That is high school football Americana, my friend.

Or perhaps you disagree? Or perhaps you’ve encountered something lately that irritates you even more?

Pelletier: Go ahead, speak for both of us. Why change now?

I am going to speak to the practical, fiscally responsible side of people here for a second, something we all should do a little bit more here in our state. New facilities are great, and necessary in many cases, but when you have only a limited number of resources available, projects need to be combined to save some cash.

You were one of the most outspoken proponents for the new track and field facility at Lisbon, in a perfect “for example.” Now, fans have been pushed back 20 yards from the football field. In that example, what should they have done?

I think if the resources are there, splitting the two projects is a no-brainer. Look at the proposed renovations to the Lewiston High School facilities as a prime example. Their proposal actually splits track and field from the main competition field. You may very well get your wish of an updated, Field Turf surface with the friendly confines you proposed in a roundabout way earlier. 

My biggest irritant, sadly, has nothing to do with the actual play on the field. And at the risk of hypocrisy, I also am sure I speak for us both when I say, the next comment I hear from a wanna-be coach on the sideline won’t be the first, nor only the 100th. 

Look, we all want what’s best for our offspring. I get that. But this epidemic (and it is an epidemic) of second-guessing every call from an official, and every decision by a coach is getting old. And it’s getting worse. The war of words has become so vile at times I have witnessed athletic directors of home teams dismiss their own team’s fans — ostensibly a relative or parent — from the game during play, while the home team was winning. In a couple of cases, winning by a lot.

I am only just now getting into this whole parenting thing, but I find that kind of behavior abhorrent, and hope that anyone who might ever catch me even thinking of behaving like that will smack me upside the head.

And these are the same knuckleheads who “don’t have the time” to volunteer to coach. Or worse, they do (or did), and believe that somehow, having coached 9-and-under rec football qualifies them to make rational, split-second decisions regarding personnel movements, play selection and officiating at the varsity level. 

Walk a mile in their shoes, as the saying goes.

Oakes: Yes, it is getting worse. The whole game of “gotcha” and needing the last word that we play in society is getting out of hand. Although we need balance. Assistant principals standing with their arms folded, scowling like prison guards, and referees talking back to fans do not help the situation, either.

Lisbon’s compromise was perfect. They created just enough room for the track and built the fence. Practical for both sports. And we like practicality, no?

Pelletier: Practical is good, but I still heard people complaining they were “too far” the other day, so what’s practical for some won’t be for others. Kind of combines our answers, doesn’t it? I will say that, no matter how many things we can find that “grind our gears,” the good invariably outweighs the evil in varsity athletics. After all, it’s still a handful of student-athletes recreating, bonding and communicating to a positive end. Isn’t that all we ever want for them?


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