The Haves and the Have-nots

Two interesting themes appeared in today’s Syracuse Post-Standard:   major concerns about the declining attendance at SU football games (last Saturday’s attendance was the lowest since 1983) and increasing poverty in the city of Syracuse.

First, the poverty rate.  Syracuse’s poverty rate is currently at 34.4%, which is the highest in the entire state (including NYC).  More than half of the children in city schools live in poverty.  This means they live in households without books, nutritious food, and two parents to contribute money and time to child-rearing.   Children in poverty are much more likely to drop out of school, get involved in crime, become drug users, and become dependent on public services.  No one seems to know what to do about this.   Some leaders give stock answers, though, such as urging kids to stay in school, tell parents to spend more time with their children, etc.   Yet because of the way public schools are funded in this state, those schools also suffer from poverty:  large class sizes, lack of up to date curriculum materials, demoralized and over worked teachers and staff (made worse by the governor’s attacks on them).   And the parents, if they are working, are usually working at odd hours for little money (and sadly, many of the parents are also battling their own demons). This is a very troubling statistic that bodes poorly for the city of Syracuse.

The other article asks “what can we do to increase attendance at the SU football games?”.  The paper gives more space to this issue than the poverty issue, but I don’t believe they are separate issues.   SU football relies on its community for attendance and support;   with over 1/3 of the city’s population too poor to own a car or buy season tickets, SU has to rely on those living outside the city.   These are mainly white people who don’t have to work weekends or evenings, own a vehicle to get themselves to the Dome, and can afford $4 bottles of water and $7 nachos with cheese.   But, there’s a lot of competition for these spectators:  festivals, concerts, casinos, etc.

While the tone of the article about the poverty rate was surprised and concerned, the articles about declining SU football attendance seemed to be more urgent.   Why?

It’s the “Haves” (the people who can afford to go to the football games) who buy and read the paper;  many of them (like us, I admit) have moved out of the city, and find it easier to turn their back on the Have-Nots, or, worse, blame the victims for their plight.

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