“If the sport of football ever dies, it will die from the outside in. It won’t be undone by a labor lockout or a broken business model — football owners know how to make money. Instead, the death will start with those furthest from the paychecks, the unpaid high school athletes playing on Friday nights. It will begin with nervous parents reading about brain trauma, with doctors warning about the physics of soft tissue smashing into hard bone, with coaches forced to bench stars for an entire season because of a single concussion. The stadiums will still be full on Sunday, the professionals will still play, the profits will continue. But the sport will be sick.”
I remember when my father let me take all of his old Chip Hilton novels home to Michigan from his boyhood bedroom in Omaha, Nebraska. I remember reading them alongside Matt Christopher and various other sports novels of generations past (their datedness never struck me).
Sports fiction like this has been a part of kidlit for a very long time, of course, and franchises like Chip Hilton and Matt Christopher seem to be as immortal as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Indeed, in looking for familiar covers to the chip Hilton books on the web, I discovered that Chip was still a three-sport varsity athlete in new editions of the stories.
There is clearly something eternal about sports stories for kids, but I also think there’s something very important going on in the world of youth sports, and I really hope that books keep pace. I’ve written about this before, but it really hit home when I read this Grantland article by Jonah Lehrer about football from which comes the quote above. If you’re interest in sports and writing for children, I urge you to read it.