Not only are the Pro’s and College’s getting ready for another football season, but the High School’s are also. Many communities bond together because of their school. Every Friday night or Saturday afternoon they get together to watch the kids play to their utmost and get enjoyment from it.
That enjoyment comes down on all. Everyone wants to be a part of it. However this season, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association hasn’t made many friends with a recent ruling they made.
The Association has barred a junior with Down’s syndrome from suiting up and playing for his High School team. Brett Bowden cannot put on the uniform because he is overage.
Most every town has this type of kid. Someone with a handicap that hangs around the High School team and the coach makes him the Manager or water boy. A real life “Radio.” A movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris about a boy the coach brings in and makes the manager of his High School Football team. However in this case, Bowden played for the team and actually suited up. But the NCHSAA has eliminated that possibility.
Sure it’s not popular. Nobody wants to rule against something of this nature. Bowden has spent the past two seasons donning pads for the Hobbton Wildcats in Newton Grove, N.C. He is a lovable player on the team this town loves and comes to see every week. But the bigger picture is at issue here.
Can the NCHSAA issue Bowden a waiver and let him play when he is over the age of 19? Yes they could but then problems will ensue down the road when another player, maybe someone without the handicap of Bowden, wants another year of eligibility at an older age. This waiver for Bowden, now seen as an act of kindness, could come back to be entirely different. What could be one player’s waiver could be another’s evidence.
The NCHSAA understands the outrage from the community and understands the community’s reaction, but insists nothing can be done to bend the rules in Bowden’s case. The association said Bowden can wear a jersey and stand on the sidelines. That has not been viewed as consolation for Bowden.
Bowden’s mother is upset, but in honestly she is only thinking of her son. That is understandable and expected. Bowden’s mother spoke with an area television station and expressed her disappointment.
“Telling Brett you can no longer be a team player, you can only wear a jersey on the sideline. He’s going to wonder, ‘What have I done wrong to deserve this? Why can’t I play?'”
This is where she needs to become the mother. This is where she needs to help him understand. When did she expect this to stop? Did she believe he would be allowed to suit up and play when he was 25? 30? When and how was she going to explain to him it was over.
We all feel sorry for Bowden. Life has dealt him a setback and this is another. But it’s one that all players face. High School, College and Professional players all. The end comes at one time or another. For Bowden, That time is now.