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VIEWPOINT: A look at Petaluma sports in the next decade

Petaluma High School sports have come a long way in the last 10 years, for better or for worse. The year 2026 has seen a dizzying array of innovations and changes in local sports, necessitated by school finances, player participation, fan interest, and degrees of parental support.

For starters, parents are grateful that they now only have to get temporary payday loans to finance their kids’ participation in football, rather than the home re-financings they were forced to get in the year 2019 when the school threatened to cancel all sports unless football ponied up more money. School officials turned around and socked it to the parents in the form of endless donations, fundraisers, raffle ticket sells, and burger flippings, all the while having to hear about how they weren’t loyal enough to the program or that they complained too much.

And then someone came up with the idea that the school officials needed to understand that, like it or not, football pays the bills, and, if high school football (and the other sports) were collectively more interesting and fun, they could draw donor funds and advertising. This could allow parents reasonable participation rates while permitting many to quit the second and third jobs needed to provide the sports funds.

This effectively put an end to the first parental rebellion of 2018, when the parents told the coaches/teachers/administrators that they could either complain that little Johnny is a spoiled brat that is impossible to coach/teach because parents enable/spoil/unduly protect him or stop extorting thousands of dollars out of them plus countless volunteer hours.

In another nod to keeping parents and kids’ sanities, the high school World Football Playoffs were shortened from a 512-team bracket that extended some schedules into February, playing in places like Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and Yerevan, Armenia to using the current highest-ranked four teams in each division format, thus allowing student/athletes to actually get some school work done, recover from injuries and reconnect with their classmates and families.

Some background may be needed for those who haven’t been reading the holographic papers these past few years. First, 10 years ago, some kids were getting injured while playing football. This was eliminated by the invention of a hybrid plastic/natural organic turf-morph, a genetically engineered, organic/polymer reinforced grass product that stays firm while the play is in progress, yet magically turns into a Nerf-like substance when the whistle is blown, thereby preventing many of the concussions and broken bones that formally occurred.

Coaches have long since been replaced by computers, as school officials reacted to the fact that football contests were becoming one-sided due to the gap between the haves and have nots. Fewer people were attending games, and all sports revenues were suffering.

In 2018, leagues were redrawn into those that recruit and throw the ball and those who don’t recruit and love to run the ball. In addition, Analy was made to pay a “luxury tax” to Elsie Allen, as a punishment for being so good and successful.

Computers were brought in to make decisions intended to make the scores closer and bring in more attendance. SCL101 was a failure as it tended to make all the scores 21-20 and all teams ended up at 5-5, which made attendance decline once again. SCL102 was introduced to correct this problem, and every team began taking turns going 10-0, 8-2, 6-4, etc., while the game scores became more like 49-48.

Referees were replaced by computerized drones in 2020, and at first games received perfect officiating, until that too was deemed uninteresting, attendance suffered, and the things were reprogrammed to blow a call occasionally, resulting in more fan interest.

After wiring and monitoring every student with feedback circuits, school officials realized an interesting thing about high school sports — the more students participated in sports, the more interested in school they became. When mandatory after-school sports tutoring was introduced, their academic performances improved many fold.

Soon, all kids were required to participate in sports, which necessitated the creation of some weird sports such as coed hacky-sack, ultimate Frisbee, rhythmic gymnastics and curling.

In addition, school officials noted that there was a multiplier effect when sports were combined with certain subjects, such as accelerated calculus and full-immersion French, so when these subjects were taught in tandem with certain sports, the resulting synergy propelled many kids toward great colleges and successful careers. Amazingly, local high schools began providing a ready supply of engineers, programmers and nurses, while not having to import so much foreign labor via H1-B visas.

To pay tribute to the teachers who inspired these methods, they were called the “McHugh/Pillsbury/Shick Method” and the “Wadsworth/Traub/Osterlye Method.” English teachers despaired until they learned that sports-calculus and sports-French students excelled in other subjects.

No longer could the English department blame the football and other sports participants for everything as it turned out that they were secretly very smart, if not analytical, and could chew people out in French, and, because 30 percent of English is French due to the Norman Invasion of 1066, they actually knew a lot of English as well.

Calculus-sports kids excelled because they calmly availed themselves of logic and strategies, and gained true STEM knowledge. These methods became so effective that other school activities such as auto shop and FFA were now deemed sports, and modern media was brought to bear, making every student a kind of math/polyglot/fill in the blank-playing rock star.

As the need for sports increased, so of course did the need for revenue, and the school was forced to bring in outside money in the form of donors and advertising. Long thought to be the filthy domain of colleges, local schools discovered that this could be a very effective, if somewhat cheesy way of amping up football and other contests, which meant more revenue for other sports, which meant a smarter student body.

Large LED screens were brought in along with CO2 cannons, scoreboards with flaming jets, trampolines and dogs that did tricks until the games resembled a circus or a Golden State Warriors game.

Snack shacks became more like really cool sidewalk cafes, and there were several of them serving garlic fries, shish kebabs, Thai food and just about everything else, to the point where many went to the games just to eat and be entertained. These eateries were named the “Cheryl Reese Culinary Complex” in honor of the Mom who had devoted more than 30 years to the snack bar cause.

Of course, in the old days, football was a kind of blood-lust sport like auto racing where people didn’t want to see anyone hurt, but the possibility of seeing someone hurt was intriguing.

Now that football is completely safe, a well-kept secret, people are sensing this and starting to stay away from the games. Now school officials are considering the advent of demolition derby, big-time pro wresting and anything else that can fit in the stadium and bring in attendance.

In an effort to hype all this new information and carry it to the masses, the local media had to go into high gear. Do any of you remember when a reporter would say “this story is so good it could practically write itself.” That’s actually what started happening. The program JJ101 was unveiled in 2021 and began by digitally writing a breathtaking narrative about every sport, which was then delivered immediately into every home via the airwaves and holograms. It got to the point where people couldn’t have their infused hydrogenated coffee without knowing which volleyball, Frisbee, badminton, or hacky-sack team had prevailed.

This author is conflicted over this highly automated sports/education evolution, even though I, too, am a computer. It seems to balance the questionable need for bread and circuses that our societies demand with tangible lessons learned such as the benefits of exercise, stimulation of good behavior through ambition and avoiding the temptation to complain, especially by for parents.

Naturally, many of the old timers wax nostalgic for the likes of Ellison, Krist, Herzog, Galloway and Jackson, when football and other sports were coached, officiated, and covered by real people and parents worked the scoreboards, flipped burgers and kept their mouths shut and their wallets open, but those days are long gone, and rather boring, given the need for all the additional revenue.

At least this reporter thinks so, and this opinion has been deemed: infallible … infallible … infallible … infallible!

Scott Baker is a parent and high school sports advocate.