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Upset with Columbiana’s beating of East Palestine

To the editor:

 Despite my East Palestine roots and (friendly) bias, I proudly shared on my Facebook page the Reader’s Digest story awarding Columbiana the title, “Nicest Place In America.”

I’m curious whether Reader’s Digest still would apply that moniker after the disgraceful actions of Columbiana’s football coaching staff on Friday night.  Specifically, after leading 41-0 at halftime, Columbiana’s football team went on to beat East Palestine 82-0. I chose to type “beat” rather than “humiliate” or “embarrass” because it’s not EP’s staff, players, parents and fans who should feel embarrassed or humiliated; rather, it is Columbiana’s players, parents, and fans who should be embarrassed and humiliated by the staff’s actions.

 At its best, football is the ultimate team sport.  Every player depends on every other player to succeed.  To do your job right, it takes hours of repetitive work that often is exhausting physically and mentally.  It is not easy, and for many, the effort to become a successful team builds or enhances character.  At its worst, football is a terrible game, especially in high school. When the game is terrible, it nearly always starts at the top — the coaching staff.  Instead of building character, it reveals bad character through, among other things,  hazing, bullying, selfishness, and running up the score in an attempt to embarrass a bunch of 13 to 18-year-old kids.

 The EP players were a bunch of kids.  It was one of those years when the kids were particularly young. Which also means they were not yet grown, not yet skilled, not yet experienced, and not yet the players they will be next year and beyond. The Columbiana staff knew the background of EP’s roster.  It didn’t just reveal its bad character by running up the score, the staff bullied and hazed the EP kids by its actions in a selfish attempt to break the Columbiana record for points scored in a game. High school football at its worst.

 I no longer live in EP. But I coached football for many years in the system where I live. In the years when we were a state powerhouse, we never engaged in the deplorable conduct committed by the Columbiana staff. Likewise, in the years when we were in the same position as this year’s EP team, none of our opponents engaged in similar conduct.  That is the way high school football should be. And, I chair the school board up here. If our system’s staff ever engaged in such conduct, I can guarantee you the staff would be gone.

 To the denizens of Columbiana: Demand action by your school board.  Show you deserve to be called the “Nicest Place In America.”  Otherwise, the Reader’s Digest story will be just that — a story.

 Hold your heads high Bulldogs!

 Jim Mackall (Jr.)

Norwich, VT

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