I’ll preface the statement I’m about to make by saying I happily watch some awful television.
I’m a big fan of reality television, mostly because it’s fun to poke fun at the people on shows like "The Real Housewives," "The Bachelor" and many other programs I don’t feel comfortable admitting that I like to watch.
With all that being said, I’ve found the most depressing show on television. It’s called "Friday Night Tykes."
"Tykes", which debuted Tuesday night on the Esquire Network, takes us inside the wild world of Texas youth football in the San Antonio area. These folks take the league seriously.
Here’s a snippet from Charles Chavarria, the grown man who coaches the Junior Broncos.
"You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed," Chavarria yelled at the top of his lungs to his players. "If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re going to bleed red, just like you!"
Never mind the fact that his message didn’t make much sense. There’s a bigger issue here.
He coaches 8- and 9-year-olds.
Chavarria also yelled the following at his team:
"There should be no reason why ya’ll don’t make other teams cry! I could care less if they cry!"
The NFL voiced its concerns with the show last week, saying the trailer for the show was "troubling to watch" and that the league featured on the show is not part of its Heads Up Football Program, which seeks to improve player safety in youth football.
Here was the response from Esquire:
"Friday Night Tykes" provides an "authentic and provocative glimpse into an independent youth football league in Texas." The spokeswoman added, "We believe ‘Friday Night Tykes’ brings up important and serious questions about parenting and safety in youth sports, and we encourage Americans to watch, debate and discuss these issues."
People on Twitter did just that:
This Friday Night Tykes is UNREAL!!! Everything wrong with youth sports in one show!! Parents/Coaches should be embarrassed. #pathetic
Youth coaches by nature are role models, and the language and scenes in Esquire Network’s "Friday Night Tykes" are in sharp contrast to USA Football’s core beliefs and what is taking place on the majority of youth football fields across the country. Football and youth sports in general provide meaningful learning opportunities, and it is vitally important that the right individuals have the training necessary to teach our children these lessons.
We are pleased that the Texas Youth Football and Cheer Association will attend our National Conference in Indianapolis from Feb. 21-23. More than 250 of our country’s largest youth programs will gather with USA Football to advance our game, keep it fun and safeguard the values it affords our children.
Understanding there is more work to be done, we are encouraged that the youth football community is embracing coaching standards such as those in our Heads Up Football program. Together with support of experts in medicine, child advocacy and multiple levels of the sport, we work with youth leagues to adopt these standards that bring significant change in how coaches are prepared, players are taught, parents are informed and safety is addressed.
The show follows around different teams in the league. One of those teams called the Colts is coached by a young-ish guy named Marcecus Gooloe. He’s a no-nonsense dude who wants his team to have a lot of swagger.
Well, one of his players missed the beginning of summer practice because he was at his grandmother’s house in Indiana for two weeks. The player’s parents said they let their son do that each summer so he can act like a kid during those two weeks.
The player, Jaden "J Boogie" Armmer, was in for a rude awakening when he finally made it to practice. Gooloe made him run and run and run and run and run some more while the rest of the team practiced.
The kid ran so much he almost puked and fell over. But finally his coach asked him if he was ready to practice. Boogie, in the nicest, most respectful way possible, said, "Yes sir."
His coach then told him to go run some more and laughed about it with an assistant coach.
A young player nicknamed J Boogie had to run a lot for missing practices.
I seriously thought Boogie was going to die out there. My wife said something like, "I don’t think I want to watch anymore of this."
But we kept on watching. And what we saw next was probably the saddest part of the episode: Boogie riding home in the back seat of his parents’ car, breathing deeply, crying and moaning like somebody had just punched him in the stomach 424 times.
I’m not a parent and have no desire to tell people how to raise their kids. The issue, for me at least, is how the coaches on the show treat the kids. They act as if they’re coaching NFL players. They’re not. They’re coaching 8-year-olds who are barely old enough to tie their own shoes.
There was one moment where a kid went down with what the coaches called a "stinger" but looked like a possible head injury. They then filmed the coaches spraying water on the kid’s head while he cried. Yeah, that water should fix everything.
During the episode we were introduced to Tony Coley, an assistant coach with a team called the Outlaws. He opened up about how his squad was penalized last year for illegally recruiting players. He also proudly talked about how they spent $16,000 on new equipment this season. Oh, and he fired off this gem about his team’s philosophy:
"I want to come out of the gate, knocking people in the head," he said proudly. "We’re gonna bring it."
Yup, 8- and 9-year-olds are going to bring it.
"It freakin’ hurts me because you have no idea the kind of work I put in. Sleepless nights, stress, the problems that occur at home because I’m here at the football field.
"Today was the biggest day of my life and it didn’t meet up to my expectations that I wanted it to be."