Yahoo – For two consecutive years, the most beloved member of the Hobbton (N.C.) High football team was Brett Bowden, a student with Down Syndrome who would suit up and cheer during every varsity game, eventually earning the right to lead the team onto the field and run a touchdown play after every game. He even scored one official touchdown in a game. In other words, Bowden was everyone’s favorite player, even though he rarely ever played. Yet Bowden’s place on the varsity sideline was also a weekly rite of passage that meant just as much to the teenager and his family as it did to his teammates. Suddenly, all of that was taken away from the teenager in August, when he and his family learned he wouldn’t be able to officially be a part of the Hobbton team for his senior year for a very simple yet rigid reason: He’s now too old. According to Greenville ABC affiliate WWAY-TV3, WRAL.com partner HighSchoolOT and other sources, Bowden recently turned 19, an age which the North Carolina High School Athletic Association deems too old to participate in high school sports. While the organization has reached out to express “understanding” about how Bowden’s situation has left members of the Hobbton community heartbroken, it also insisted that nothing could be done to circumvent the NCHSAA age regulations. “Brett don’t see that he has Down Syndrome,” Bowden’s mother, Pat Bowden, told WWAY. “Brett wants just to be one of those guys, out there dressed, thinking that he is a football player, feeling like he’s a football player.” In an effort to clarify its official position, North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Davis Whitfield released a statement about Bowden’s varsity eligibility on Wednesday. “I want to be clear that the student-athlete has not been ‘kicked off the team,’” Whitfield said in the statement, which he emailed to Prep Rally directly. “Brett Bowden could still be a part of the team, lead his team on the field, wear his jersey and be with his teammates, including some of the post-game activities he has done in the past. “The only thing that he cannot do now that he could do before is dress out in full uniform, since a student must be eligible to be dressed for a contest. He is over the age limit based on the eligibility rules, and this State Board of Education policy is one we are not allowed to set aside.”
Let the kid play! It’s not like he’s a grown man trying to play running back on a high school football team. He’s retarded. Literally. He’s just going to run up and down the sidelines and high five people like Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Radio.”
They should let him “play.” Give him a clipboard and a baseball cap and tell him that he’s the third string quarterback. Then stick a helmet on his ass after every game and have him score one of those imaginary TD’s. He can still lead you out of the tunnel or do whatever he was doing before. What’s the difference? It’s not like they said he couldn’t be on the sidelines. Just can’t suit up. But that’s the beauty of retarded kids. They don’t know the difference anyway
However, I do understand the counter-argument. Retard strength. If some coach got cute, and put Brett Bowden in the game and told him to “hug” the kid with the ball, all hell would break loose. It would be like the Waterboy, except real life, and a whole lot scarier. On second thought, grown man tards shouldn’t be allowed to play football.