Just returned from a high school football game. My team got killed, by the way, which is OK. I wish (well, not really, but kind of) that I were one of those parents whose lives revolved around high school football. I suppose I’d be better able to focus on the game rather than, say, people watching.
I always find it amusing when “football Friday” comes around and the administration gives the, “Kids, be sure to watch the game” speech. At football games all across America, the scene is the same. You have the adults watching the game; the high schoolers are watching mostly each other (and the cheerleaders); the middle schoolers are running around having multiple crises, working through the agonizing early days of love, as is the nature of that age; and the elementary kids are doing anything BUT watching the game — they’re playing their own version of the football game in the end zones, dreaming about the day that they’ll wear one of those numbered jerseys.
And every year, without fail, the principal stands in front of the student body and says, “Kids, if you go to the game, you should sit down and watch the game, not play football in the end zone or be running around the school grounds.” Yeah, yeah, they’ve heard it all before.
I suppose it just highlights the divide in generations, no? Even I remember the days when going to a football game didn’t mean actually sitting there watching it (although we would if a special someone was sitting in the stands). We’d go to flirt and to check out the high school boys and drink caffeinated beverages that assured plenty of energy for such excursions. Game? What game? That seemed to be our train of thought back then.
I suppose all of this was compounded by the fact that I lived in the country and seldom got to see my “town” friends outside of school hours. Football Friday nights were something special — a sacred time of times — and I almost felt as if I spent most of the week preparing for that night of fun.
Friday night games ensured time for us middle schoolers to bond with our “man of the moment” — a boy we had probably only been “going out” with for a few days at the most, but we were sure then that it would last forever. Football nights meant that we’d be relatively unsupervised and could thus steal a few moments away from the game, running along the shadowy perimeter of the school until we reached the front steps. Those front steps were a holy shrine of sorts, because this old school building was flanked by huge columns, and behind those huge columns were the perfect shadowy refuge for couples in puppy love.
Oh, stop that train of thought, will you? We didn’t do anything there … in fact, I’m not quite certain why we felt we needed to be away from prying eyes in order to sit there and make dumb conversation … and maybe hold hands for a few minutes. My friends and I would giggle and act like airheads while the boys did nearly-manly things, like having burping contests or calling each other every curse word they could think of. But these moments were a dress rehearsal of sorts — figuring out what to do in a new situation. It would be in this arena that I would receive my first “real” kiss from a boy; but the experience being sloppy and rather unpleasant, I’m sure I could have waited for a more appropriate situation.
Even now, though, the smell of popcorn, glaring field lights, and crowd of similarly-dressed fans reminds of another time and place, say about twenty years ago, where the last thing on my mind during Friday night football was the game itself.