Monday, October 3, 2011

The Boys of Fall

The other night my brother-in-law said something that got me thinking (this doesn't happen a lot, so mark it down hehe). He said, "I wish we'd had football in high school..."

And I started thinking about how strange of an idea that was. For me, football was a staple in high school. It wove in and out of everything. It was a huge part of our school. Our community. Our lives. To take football out of high school, for me, would be to take a huge chunk out of my life.

I wasn't a cheer-leader. I didn't date the quarterback. I was your run-of-the-mill average Jane doing her best to make it through the teen years. But football wasn't just for jocks or pretty girls. It was for everyone.

In junior high it was a time to socialize. We couldn't drive, and we all found ourselves at the game on Friday night. It's where we whispered to our friends, ran around the track, followed the boys we liked, giggled, ate popcorn, and had fun.

When we got to high school, though, everything changed.  Suddenly those boys we liked were on the field, looking tough and handsome in their pads and uniforms. Even the dweebiest guy on the team looked, well, like a football player.

Games became a time of excitement. Watching the guys from our class take hits, score points, and tackle the other team. Hearing the huge crowd cheer for those guys who sat with us in math, who took us out on dates, who danced with us at school dances. They were heroes.

The season started with hot summer nights, kicking off when the sun was still up. But by the second home game it was "football weather." We wore our school hoodies. It was just before dark when the boys kicked off. The air was crisp, and the lights were bright. By the end of the season it was dark before the game even started. We huddled close together under blankets, clutching hand-warmers and sipping hot chocolate. Cold to the bone by the end of the game, but always jumping up to cheer when one of our boys crossed into the end-zone.

Fridays at school were like holidays during football season. There was that thrill in the air. That feeling that something exciting was brewing. The boys all wore their jerseys to school. We talked about who we would play, what time we would arrive, and who was starting. Teachers rarely gave weekend assignments (though there were the few sticklers), and we talked all day about what we were going to do after the game. It was usually Sonic runs and sleep-overs.

There were pep rallies in the afternoon before a big game, and for homecoming. We spent the whole week before homecoming completely engrossed in everything football. We decorated the halls, the doors, our cars. We had bonfires and chili suppers. We made up skits and dances and cheers. We dressed funny every day. Painted our faces. It was one of the biggest events of the year.

By the time football season was over, it was time for Thanksgiving and holidays. Basketball started, and it was a whole new dynamic. While it was 'just a sport' to some, for most of us, football defined fall. And I can't imagine a fall without it as a student.

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