This is a story about some young people who displayed immense courage. And it's also about some other people.

The story of courage comes from the Healdsburg High School football team, which lost its first two games this season, badly. After that, the team voted to disband the team.

The other story comes from Twitter and Facebook and Internet comment sections. This is where fully grown adults (we assume) dove in with instant and obvious cheap shots, attacking the kids for their decision.

Here's the story, the backlash, and why these kids should be applauded for their courage--not attacked for quitting.

102 to zero

Healdsburg is located in Sonoma County, California--wine country. The public high school there has seen its enrollment fall sharply, from 1,000 students 10 years ago to only 500 now.

Meantime, schools across the country have seen the number of kids playing football fall sharply, too. (It's not just concussion fears; this article on Forbes does a good job of explaining other factors.)

The result is that the Healdsburg team started the season with only 18 players. Predictably, they got pummeled. Combined score: 102 to zero over two games.

Five players quit the team after game number 2, The Washington Post reported. Another quit on the following Monday. Then, the coach held a team meeting. The school's principal described its content: 

"They had a long talk about commitment and what that means and about quitting. Once you quit, it becomes easier to do it. It was all the things coaches are supposed to say." 

Then they put it to a vote. What do we do now? The remaining players stood up to the coaches and voted 7 to 4 to suspend the season.

'Snowflake kids'

You can imagine that once this story got out, it sort of went viral. It had all the outrage factors required for old people on the Internet to feel superior to the younger generation.

A few sample comments. 

  • I love the message.  "When the going gets tough, quit."
  • California's "leadership" is a good part of why we have a messed up country.
  • ahhhh.......snowflake kids doing what they do best..... retreat to their SAFE PLACE in mommy's basement ............ gotta hide from LIFE
  • They will all be losers in life with that attitude!
  • Not just losers, quitters too.
  • You learn more by losing at this age... you just sent a horrible message
  • I see the next bunch of gimmedat obama voters.........losers/dems quit and get those freebies as paid by the WINNERS

There's a lot more out there. Lots of comparisons to storming the beaches at Normandy which of course happened long before most of the critics were born. Lots of anti-gay rhetoric, too, as if that had anything to do with it.

By the way suggesting that gay people aren't good athletes is the surest way to indicate you haven't set foot in a gym in years.

In other words, lots of whining and complaining from people who probably never played football to begin with, and who apparently have a lot of time to comment from the comfort of their phones.

Profiles in courage

This whole reaction is why I say it took courage for these kids to stop playing.

All of the pressure to continue with this ridiculously doomed season was external: pressure from the coaches and the principal, and pressure from the world writ large.

And it takes true guts to stand up to that. Since the kids didn't apparently have a burning desire to keep playing, continuing the season to please other people would have just been stupid.

Our culture fetishizes the idea of "grit." But grit without reflection is a recipe for disaster.

Here we had kids who had every factor stacked against them at the start of the season, who got killed in their first two outings, and who recognized that discretion is the better part of valor.

If you have to blame anyone, blame the coaches--not for not stopping them from quitting, but for putting them in this position to begin with. And also for giving the whole "if you quit now you'll be quitters your whole lives" speech. 

That's bull. Part of the art of growing up is learning to try things, be willing to fail, and moving on quickly. That's what these young athletes are doing.

The easy thing would have been to continue the season. These kids showed true courage by standing quitting.