On October 22 of last year, a La Jolla High football player - Vision of San Diego calls him "Blaine" - suffered a concussion after an on-field collision. What happened next has been the source of considerable controversy, with various parties insisting on not being blamed for Blaine's return to the field almost immediately following his injury. The details are murky, but the school hopes the event has provided a clear vision for the future.
"What happened to Blaine was a tragedy," says La Jolla High football varsity head coach Jay Crater. "But we're hoping that the changes we've brought about in the wake of his injury will serve to give that tragedy some meaning. It is our hope that this community will never again have to face the prospect of seeing the bright future of one of its young people dimmed due to a sports-related brain injury."
"Remarkably," says Crater, "the solution came from that pantywaist [teacher Robert] Reynolds in the history department. We had a faculty-wide meeting to address Blake's troubles with school." (Blake currently suffers from chronic migraines and light sensitivity, as well as an inability to read for more than a few minutes without pain, and has been back to school just once since his injury in October.) "Reynolds got up and started talking about Roman gladiators, and I thought, Oh Peanuts, here we go again with this blood-sport analogy garbage. I thought he was going to yammer on about how we'd failed to progress as a civilized society, and how we should all be watching synchronized swimming and speed chess. But instead, he made a pretty good point: the ruling class of ancient Rome would never have sent their own children down onto the field of combat. That kind of violence was the business of slaves and prisoners. The ruled. The lowborn souls who were willing to risk a brutal death for our entertainment in exchange for the slim chance that they might gain some measure of freedom and opportunity."
Reynolds went on to ask how many great boxers La Jolla had produced. "A couple of teachers actually laughed at that," recalls Carter. "Reynolds said that proved his point. The privileged don't box. The privileged watch the underprivileged box and make money off it. And if football was starting to rack up concussions at rates usually reserved for the sweet science, then maybe it was time to make some changes."
The resultant policy, known informally as the Reynolds Rule and still pending approval from the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education, offers a variation on the risk and reward offered to those Roman gladiators. "Students from less prosperous regions of San Diego will be offered the opportunity to try out for the La Jolla High football team. If they make the cut and meet certain minimum academic requirements, they will be granted the kind of first-rate education that a well-funded school like La Jolla High can provide. The football program will thrive, thanks to the expanded talent pool. And no child of a La Jolla parent will have to go through what Blaine is going through now."