City school teams get taste of playing under the lights

On High Schools

October 10, 2004|By MILTON KENT

TO THE BEST of their abilities, our schools handle the dispensing of the tangible lessons our kids need to learn, like the quadratic equation, the number of moons orbiting Jupiter and that pesky "I before E except after C" grammatical rule.

Alas, in some cases, they have to teach other intangible lessons, too, lessons about fairness and equality and why kids in some schools appear to have it better than kids from other schools just down the road.

On Friday night, parents and students from four city high schools, Edmondson, Patterson, City and Dunbar, got a taste of what their suburban counterparts get, a chance to experience the atmosphere under the Friday night lights, as the teams played a football doubleheader at Morgan State.

That doubleheader followed a twin bill from two weeks ago, when City, Forest Park, Poly and Walbrook staged two closely contested games.

More importantly, the contests were well attended by not only students, but also their parents, many of whom rarely get a chance to see their kids play Friday afternoon games because of work.

"From what I witnessed a couple of weeks ago, there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in the air, and not just from the players, but from the parents and fans," said Bob Wade, the city schools' athletics director.

"It was a festive type of atmosphere. Everyone was excited. They were excited to be on Morgan's campus playing on that outstanding football field. The kids were all smiling."

The city's doubleheaders at Hughes Stadium slid under the radar with all the fanfare given to Howard County's push to get lights up and operational at its 11 high schools.

"I applaud [Howard athletic coordinator] Don Disney and his efforts to get the necessary funding to light up Howard County," Wade said. "He did a great job, and we'd like to kind of piggyback on that philosophy and see if we can do something similar here in the city."

Wade must take baby steps toward that end. He is trying to involve as many schools as possible in a game-of-the-week-type format. Next year, Wade said, he hopes to have four doubleheaders at Hughes Stadium, but they have to be scheduled during weeks when Morgan is away or off.

That's not an ideal situation for the Morgan team or the high schools, but at least they are getting some admissions revenue - minus the costs of hiring event staff, maintenance and rent.

The city, frankly, could use someone like Doug Hostetler, the Howard County parent who lined up businesses for contributions for the more than $1 million to get the lights in the already existing stadiums.

Admittedly, playing football on a Friday night is hardly the chief mission of a school system, particularly one like Baltimore's that can't even guarantee that medical personnel are present at schools during the day.

In a perfectly fair world, a modern but modest multipurpose stadium, centrally located like the old Kirk Field, could host night football games on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as track meets and soccer and lacrosse matches.

In this utopia, all the schools would share in the use of the park, taking turns hosting events and reaping profits from it. The stadium would seat, say, 5,000 to 10,000, so as not to be outlandish, but to serve the needs of the city and the schools.

And during the spring, depending on the weather, graduation ceremonies could be held there, to remind us that schools principally serve to nourish the mind, rather than the body.

How would an already strapped school system pay for this luxury? Well, in a fair and just world, it wouldn't have to. Businesses in the city, particularly those that profit from kids - like, for instance, fast food restaurants - would kick in some of their proceeds to help pay for a place.

Or perhaps the city's professional teams, with the assistance of some of the city's most notable former high school stars, spread throughout the professional sports world, would help kick in some of the funding, to return to Baltimore a portion of what the city and its schools have given to them.

Of course, this is all dreaming, but putting our kids on as equal a footing as we can shouldn't have to be a dream.

"We have to provide the same kind of service to our inner-city kids as they do in the surrounding counties," Wade said. "That's my philosophy. If you have children, you don't do for one without doing for all."

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