Thursday, September 1, 2011

Football Games Offer More Than Just Football

I don’t like football.  For me, any sport that has an ambulance waiting nearby cannot be good.  As the team’s finest line up face to face on the battlefield, the crowd roars in anticipation of the assault.  Someone yells, the ball is snapped, and everyone goes into action.  Most of the time the activity will be very short-lived, ending in a pile of different colored uniforms on the ground. 
However, every once in a while a player will break free and run. The crowd stands screaming out instructions as if their voice was the only one that could be heard.  The band plays, the cheerleaders cheer, and the dance team members add their talents to the excitement. Everyone on the field runs in pursuit of someone's son whose only crime is that he is carrying a ball.  Those wearing uniforms different than his own will not be content until he has been thrown to the ground and tackled.
Men in striped shirts race over and make a call.  If they are able, the players will get to their feet and repeat the process until the clock, which seems to start and stop for no reason, says that the game is now half over. 
At halftime the announcer reminds of us the score and the crowd stands and cheers as the players, even those who have stood on the sidelines, run from the field as if they had just been declared the victors, returning just a few minuets later to complete the dance.  It was a good game if the umpire’s name was not taken in vain, no one left the field on a stretcher, and the police were not called in to break up a fight.
Football.  For many it is a sport.  For others it is a passion.  Fans wear their team colors with pride and can tell you the facts, flaws, and future of each member of their team, including the coaches.  They stand around water coolers, boardrooms, and parking lots discussing the latest victory or defeat.  Armchair quarterbacks with answers to even the most difficult questions of strategy.
I have watched this phenomenon for years from a distance.  I was convinced that I would NEVER be able to enjoy a football game.  Between the violence, noise and my confusion over the rules of the game, sitting in the stands and having a good time was something that I thought would never happen to me…I was wrong. 
Last night my family and I attended the Northwest Rankin vs. Clinton High School football game.  My son, Phillip, plays the tenor drums for the Northwest band and his sisters had made a weekend return to see their brother march.  The stands were tightly packed, but we managed to find a seat.  As the game began, my attention was drawn from the field. 
I could not help but notice that there was much more than a football game going on this Friday evening.  The game of life was also being played.  There were shouts and cheers from the crowd mingled with conversations.  Men discuss the strategies of the game.  Friends who hadn’t seen each other for a while were updating one another on the changes in their lives.  Children could be heard begging for money to visit the concession stand as a parade of people walking by shout hellos to their friends in the stands. 
There were families enjoying an evening out together. An elderly man helped his wife maneuver the climb up the bleachers; you just know that they have done this before.  The young children dressed as football players or cheerleaders. School logos were being worn on everything to show the spirit and pride of the team. 
Love was in the air as young couples walked arm in arm and stole kisses when they thought that no one was watching.  Younger children felt much older and more popular being seen at a high school football game.  Some played while others tried to imitate the behavior of the teenagers. 
Parents slapped hands in mid air to celebrate the accomplishments of their boys on the field, and babies enjoyed the outdoors with so many people to amuse them.  Parents, who had given freely of their time and money, watched their children with pride as they played, danced, cheered, and preformed. 
I learned something Friday night.  Football games are more than just two teams struggling for victory.  Football games are about family, friends, and spirit.  It is a time to renew friendships, support your children, and have that common bond that comes from yelling your lungs out in a victory cry.
While I am still not happy about the number of injuries to our young athletes I have soften my opinion about football.  Although you will probably not see me dressed in the colors of my favorite school or buying season tickets, I must confess I do get it.  I understand why a Friday night football game may offer just a bit more than football.  I love supporting the band, cheerleaders, dance team, and football players. So who knows, maybe on day I will go to a football game and actually like it…nah

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