Saturday, September 5, 2009

Friday Night Lights

It's Friday night in Texas, and even though it's the start of Labor Day Weekend, the home stands are comfortably full.

The stadium is a little nicer, the scoreboard a little flashier, the helmets are a little safer, but otherwise you're looking at the same picture our parents were looking at forty years ago.

If you want a real sense of community, go to a high school football game. We've been season ticket holders for thirteen years. We started when our oldest was a seventh grader, wanting a preview of what our public high school would be like.

We first sat in unreserved seating in the snake pit section of junior high kids. The next year we moved across the aisle so that we could see the snake pit (and our daughter) but didn't have to hold them off with a torch to enjoy the game.

We've gradually migrated, as our kids aged, to lifetime option seats on the fifty yard line, twenty-five rows up. We'll be in those seats at least a dozen more years.

There is no other word for Friday nights than "glorious." There are about two thousand students at our high school and nearly five hundred participate each game - the football team, band, drill team, cheerleaders, and various spirit groups. The stands fill up with younger kids, high school kids, alumni, family members and others. Many regular attendees have no connection to the high school other than living in the community. We all come together on Friday nights with smiles and handshakes. Having center aisle seats, lots of graduates stop by to catch up with my husband, their former teacher.

The PA announces local scores throughout the game, with corresponding oohs and aahs from the crowd. At the end of half-time he calls the winning ticket of the weekly raffle, which supports a former player who lost his hands and feet to bacterial meningitis. Most of the time the winner doesn't claim the prize, so the young man gets it all. Then there is the announcement of lost keys, looks like Jaguar keys, and you can line up at the stadium elevator to make your claim.

For a few hours each week, we are a small town, like every other small town, joined in one purpose encouraging our children.

You see the football parents, wearing their son's number, agonizing over the dropped ball or exulting in the hard tackle. Our football team made the playoffs last year and ought to do reasonably well this year. (Our district's other high school team wins state championships and is playing against a Utah team at the new Cowboys Stadium on Labor Day.)

The band parents, like us, intently watch and applaud the half-time performance. The show will develop in segments over the season until the end, when our band, a state champion, will compete for a second national marching band title in Indianapolis.

If you are concerned about the youth of America, come to a high school football game. Watch the kids from both teams play their guts out. Listen to the choir group sing the Star Spangled Banner. Watch the cheerleader pick up her instrument and march with the band at half-time. See the student trainers sprint with water bottles to the huddle on the field. Hear the band playing and the fans in the stands singing the alma mater to the team after a heart breaking loss or hard fought win.

Best of all, see the kids leaving the stadium sweaty and tired, depleted by their efforts, ready to do it all over again.


Ricky Balthrop said...

There's a sweetness and depth of thought in your writing that just awes me with almost everyone of your posts. This one does a great job of capturing the magic of a high school football game, even in a busy, otherwise disconnected suburb. I've got to confess this one made me tear up, and not just the first time I read it.

Your writing makes me proud, because it shows everybody those special traits and insights that have made loving you a treat for the past 30 years. Keep writing - yourusband is proud of you.

Allyson said...

Ricky said it a million times better than I could. I was tearing up as well as I read your post and then moved to outright crying as I read his comment. What an awesome way to start my day as a wife, mother and friend.

Anonymous said...


Friday night football games are truly America. You are a wonderful writer. Rick

Oliver said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Life in the Fifties said...

To Wilson:

You made my day! What a brightener as I start my marathon weekend of work (Sep 15th deadline.) Thank you for the encouragement.