I grew up in a small town. Every fall in this small town, the local high school football season starts. From a very young age, all kids learn that being at that high school stadium is the only place to be come Friday night.
The entire town would practically shut down on Friday night because everyone would be at the field. Everyone in the town who has ever been a fan is still a huge fan of that school. Every person in that town knows the starting line-up and which teams will be the biggest competition that year.
We were all taught at a very young age to love and adore that school and their athletics. We have been trained to cheer and be fans for that team and that team only. These days, people will ask me why I care so much about my high school’s football team now, long after I have graduated. The answer is simple — it’s the way I was raised.
It takes a community to raise a child, and my community has raised me to always love that team and that group of boys.
When I was little, I had countless neighbors, good family friends, and two older brothers that played football in that royal blue and white jersey. I went to every game. I did not start watching them until I was in junior high and could figure out what was going on on the field, but I was still there every game.
Because I have known so many of these young teenage boys who have gone through that football program, I have seen that once you have been a member of that team, you will always be a member of that team.
There is something magical about being on a small town football team. There have been a few authors who have touched base on the connection athletes get when they are a part of the small town football club.
Kenny Chesney’s song “The Boys of Fall,” for instance, is an example of one of the writers that have captured the emotions of that experience. Even though the boys don’t know that’s how they are feeling, that song conveys the message.
One of my favorite books is called Bleachers by John Grisham. It talks about a small town and the favorite high school football coach that is passing away and how the town is grieving about it. Every athlete that ever played under him comes back to town. They all meet on the bleachers every night to rehash all the memories they had playing under that coach.
I think that book captures the phenomenon known as small town, Friday night football. I don’t know and couldn’t go into detail how it feels to be on a team like that. I wish I could, but I can’t. But just to be a part of that in the small role I have played as fan and adorer, I can only imagine.
This Friday, the local high school in my town has a home game. I can guarantee that I will be there. I will probably be sitting on the 40 yard line under the light, the same place my family and friends have sat for years. I am looking forward to watching the team. Going to the game at least gives the town something to talk about.