First the good news.

The Muskies are ranked #2 in Manitoba heading into their second season in the Winnipeg High School Football League this fall after a 4-3 regular-season record and quarter-final exit during their inaugural campaign in the ‘AA’ division in 2001.
Now the bad news. It costs considerably more to play in the WHSFL than it did in the old NorWOSSA loop. So much so that the Touchdown Club is facing at least a $15,000 deficit—and that’s just to cover last season let alone this coming one.
That’s the message head coach Bob Swing and his staff, along with the athletic department at Fort High, passed along to parents and other prospective volunteers at a special meeting Sunday evening in the school cafeteria.
Basically, the meeting focused on how to keep the Muskie football program competitive in the WHSFL and allow the players to achieve their full potential on the gridiron.
And, of course, topping the list was fundraising.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that higher league fees, increased transportation costs, and accommodations for the coaches on overnight trips translates into more money being needed.
On top of that, though, is the money needed to field a ‘B’ team, and ideally a ‘C’ one involving youngsters in grades seven and eight, so that players can come up through the ranks with the skills needed to replace the graduating veterans.
Frankly, it’s hard to field a winner if a kid steps onto the field in grade nine or 10 having never played the game before. And that will prove even more so after next year when high school will be condensed to four years from five.
Unfortunately, while that is all fine and good, we also have to call a spade a spade. We’re talking about a lot of cash here.
Let’s say it costs $35,000-40,000 a year to run the Muskie football program in the WHSFL (Swinger’s “scary number” is $50,000). But with the Touchdown Club raising maybe 20 grand a year through its Bingo every second Sunday evening, the FFHS Athletic Department kicking in about $3,500, and players’ fees covering another $2,00, give or take, the revenue coming in falls far short of the expenditures going out.
That’s not good (see rocket scientist, above).
On the plus side, several parents signed up to help the Touchdown Club in its fundraising efforts, as well as volunteer for other tasks, with an initial meeting planned for early next month.
Including me.
Let’s pause for a moment and let me be perfectly clear that I’m completely biased in all this because my stepson is a football player.
In a word, I want the fundraising efforts to succeed—and I want the Muskie football program to thrive against Winnipeg schools. I’ve also done it before when Nathan was a swimmer, working Bingos for the Aquanauts and even spending a night standing guard over the big tent during the bass tournament a few years back.
But as the objective editor, I also know it will be an uphill battle. To put it bluntly, will (or perhaps the better word is can) the district community support another sports team when there are so many other worthwhile causes out there banging their tin cups.
Not the least of which is health care.
Let’s see . . . football or dialysis machine, football or hospital renovations, football or helping a family cope with expenses in the face of a medical emergency.
Over the next two months alone, the “Community Chest” will hold its fundraising dinner (residents also are being asked to contribute to the cause through the local Safeway employees’ charity). Then there’s the annual Riverside Foundation for Health Care fundraiser dinner looking to “reel in” big bucks.
The second-annual “Curl for Cancer” fundraiser in coming up in early March. Meanwhile, the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce is looking for sponsors (money) so it can hold its annual banquet and business awards later that month.
And that’s not to mention Heart and Stroke Month, or all the canvassing that goes on to help find the cure for other diseases. Then there’s the local arts community, such as helping the high school band go off to Europe or wherever.
The annual Muskie tea is coming up Saturday, with a fish fry fundraiser planned next Feb. 8. There’s all the other high school teams and, of course, the minor hockey ones (house league and rep squads).
Nor we must we forget all the fundraising local service clubs do for worthwhile projects in town and across the district.
The list is amazing, and endless.
As editor, I know it won’t be easy chasing after that increasingly smaller slice of the community support pie. But as a resident of almost 15 years here, I also know that support is out there no matter who comes knocking at the door.
And as a parent, I’m willing to try. Fortunately, others are, too. Really, though, we can’t expect to ask for that support if we’re not willing to tackle our share of the work.

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