It is a tragedy for everyone involved -- a family, a school, a community -- when a young life is taken as a result of senseless violence. The aftermath of such a death often leads to earnest reflection and a search for ways to cull future damage from potential similar incidents. In the case of one Virginia community, it even precipitated the elimination of that most American of all high school activities: Friday night football.
As reported by the Washington Post and a variety of other sources, Norfolk, Virginia unilaterally eliminated all scheduled Friday night football games for all five of the city's schools following the death of Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor High senior David White, who was gunned down in October.
For more than a month, Norfolk-based football teams have only played on Saturday afternoons, a day usually reserved for time away from the sport to rest. The decision to end traditional Friday night football games was the result of an earnest effort by the city as a whole to approach a spate of youth gun violence with creative solutions.
"We are not omnipresent 24 hours of each day," said Norfolk Public Schools superintendent Dr. Samuel King said at a press conference about the elimination of Friday night football. "We as citizens of Norfolk must all join together in a united front to help keep our streets and neighborhoods safe."
The city even stepped up security at all Saturday games, using hand-held metal detectors at all entrances in an attempt to provide the safest base possible for athletes and the few fans who did attend the games after they were moved from Friday nights.
The move to Saturday football had profound effects on any number of Norfolk programs. Lake Taylor, in particular, reported a significant financial effect, both on players who would otherwise have been working at a job on a Saturday and for the school's athletic department, which had to dramatically curtail revenue expectations from tickets and concessions because of huge decreases in attendance on Saturday's compared with traditional Friday matchups.
Yet even those sacrifices were universally accepted as the harsh cost of bringing safety to an environment which is traditionally seen as a sacred ground free of violence, with teens developing athletic talent rather than scattering from bullets.
There is no word yet regarding whether the school district will allow basketball games on Friday nights, or if football will return to Fridays in 2013. For now, neither of those considerations are particularly important. What is important is that students seem to be safer since the schedule changes, and that may make all the sacrifices and changes worthwhile.
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