Tuesday, September 2, 2008

High School Football - the traditions

Our Young Son attends a "college preparatory school for boys," a rarified atmosphere indeed. After homeschool, I believe in single gender education. I like it, they like it, done.

My boy is still pretty lean, and as a sophomore, he gets to play football twice a week. On the TURF and under the lights. At last.
Once on the JV team, and again for the BIG SHOW on Friday night. Monday JV football is a bonus for us, to give our lean young men more "playing time." For me, that means more time in the stands. Isn't that fun for me? Two games a week. YAY! Football games! YAY, again!
This past Friday was the first " varsity home game" and in my disability to write here and do anything else, I am talking about it a week later. In this tradition rich atmosphere, a home game entails lots ....of stuff.The National Anthem is sung by our own a capella singing group. This group of young men makes a tour of the girls' schools in town every year. I cannot think of many schools where you have a group of young men, including some in pads and others in tee shirts, standing in a circle and singing on the track, then dispersing to play football or participate in the general mayhem in the stands. It's amazing.The team, all gazillion of them, leaves the locker room and walks purposefully to the field led by the coach and I guess some important seniors. They move through a fan tunnel. The fan tunnel is really exciting. YAY! Fan tunnel! Or "Owl Walk" take your pick. YAY! Parents and students and other FANS line up, clapping and talking, on either side of the walkway from the locker room to the field. The clapping intensifies and the talking turns to yelling, as the team takes the longest possible route. The fans yell and scream and whistle and the players clomp through. Cleats on concrete - noisy. They are big in those pads and helmets. I had to work really hard to figure out where my guy was. Then I remembered his number. That was a help.
In addition to the yelling and whistling and general noise making, people start smacking them on the helmet or shoulder pad or slapping hands. And sometimes the big padded young men slap back. The fan tunnel fan can get pretty small as people push to see and crowd in, or reach in to give an encouraging punch, so the team has to push their way through. It's ....well, it's tradition. Sort of scary and wild, but another tradition. Twice per game. It's a way for everyone to get 'fired up.' They pray before the game. They bow their heads and put a hand on another's shoulder. From where I sit, in the stands, it sounds like a deep rumbling swarm of something. When longtime Coach Jake died this summer, his sons spoke about praying in the huddle before games. Many of his former players came to the Coach's funeral. They stood and prayed out loud in unison, as if it were another pre-game huddle, as the Coach had led them so many times. That day, I stood silently, listening to the voices of many, many men praying together. I saw them reach out and put a hand on another's shoulder. They honored Coach Jake. That day, the Coach' s grandson and namesake sang. He also sang the National Anthem at the football game last week. Real tradition doesn't desert you with time. They do this thing with the helmets. Not sure what that's about, but they do it alot. And make a big loud boy-noise. Something about "WIN" or "FIGHT" or "TEAM" or "WOMEN" I mean "LADIES" ....one of those, maybe.
There is a lot of cheering and talking on the sidelines. Yes indeed, our Young Son does a lot of chatting on the sidelines on Friday night.
When someone is "down" or presumed injured, or exhausted, they 'take a knee' and they also take the helmets off. I'm not sure what the point of that is, unless it's to be sure that there is no surreptitious coaching or planning or whatever. Also, they are probably tired of standing up and they are hot - so removing the helmet and taking a knee is a nice little break. But I am a mom, so maybe that's not right. And then it's over. Win or lose, they all line up and shake hands. Like men do all over the world. At the end of the day, everyone shakes hands and goes on about their business.
Practice is hard, there's a lot of yelling, and a lot of running, and a lot of time spent. Homework goes late because of those hours. On Thursdays though, there are notes in the lockers from the cheerleaders "Go, #70!" "We're #1!" Also there is food. The seniors eat the good stuff, like the chicken nuggets, but the Young Son got brownies, and was pleased.
The one with the black on his cheek - that's the Coach's grandson and namesake. According to Mimi, who knew him so well, Big Jake had a beautfiul voice too. And there's Little Bear - glaring at the camera. What's up with that, Little Bear?
So...let's see.
  • Lots of time in preparation.
  • People who care about you encouraging you...also hitting you.
  • Walk-in together and follow the leaders.
  • Sing the National Anthem.
  • Pray together.
  • Talk to your friends.
  • Be respectful when someone might be hurt.
  • Stick with your buddies.
  • Shake hands when it's over.

OK. I think it's worth it. I mean, EVERYBODY at school doesn't get brownies and notes from the cheerleaders.


kikibibi said...

Missing you, but glad you're posting when you can! (I'm in the same boat!)

I just love the traditions associated with high school (and later college, hopefully!) football. My sweet 10th grader is safety on the JV team, but is hearing rumors that he might play Varsity sometimes. How exciting!

Kathryn said...

That pic of the team praying before the game. I love it. It is priceless.

I can't wait to see what sort of activities our boys take interest in as they get older. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the post! Trying to multi-task is hard....I miss summer, don't you???

Anonymous said...


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