I spent a lot of time reflecting Friday. As most know, Friday was supposed to be kickoff for another high school football season. I likely was going to be at one of the most anticipated games, Batavia at Montini.
I never played football at any level. I don’t think my body was intended for it. Physically, by sixth grade, kids threw and hit faster than I could so I knew playing sports was over for me by then.
While I never experienced what it was like, as a player, to run under a tunnel to Enter Sandman or Seven Nation Army, I do understand how important that feeling is to so many. Playing in front of friends and family means the world. It’s an opportunity to be the talk of school, represent your school and town and get noticed for a potential scholarship.
Your perspective changes as you get older. For years, especially in middle school, I used to just walk up and down the St. Charles North pathway with friends wearing my DC white hat with the blue letters. I’d hardly pay attention to the game, but I still remember names like Jeff Stolzenburg, Jordan Huxtable and others score touchdowns. I never met them, but when you’re 10, those guys seemed like football royalty in town.
Once in high school, I was up in those stands. I didn’t get emotionally invested in the game until my senior year. I still remember a play where a runner was down at the 1-yard-line – it was called a touchdown – and I made sure everyone around me knew it. I stewed about that until halftime. I remember the talk in the student stand section revolved around the latest rumors of who was dating who, what parties were happening that weekend, someone totally failed that chemistry quiz and whatever else was atop of mind.
I was fortunate to get those experiences. Right now with the pandemic, others aren’t as lucky. I’m deeply sorry. Those are some of the best moments of high school; being with your friends, being way under-dressed for the weather and getting to see your friends and classmates play.
Know those experiences will return and remember to take a second to look around you when they do. Look at who is around you. Remember to take the moment in: The public address announcer calling a touchdown, the speaker blaring the bass of that popular rap song, hearing the pep band – all of it. Take a minute to observe the younger kids walking in front of those stands. One day, too, they will be where you are now. You were them not that long ago.
Then, perhaps one day, you’ll be a parent in the stands watching your own children play either the game, an instrument or performing on the sidelines as a cheerleader/dancer. I don’t have children of my own, but I do know how proud of a feeling that can be for a parent. Parents, savor that even more than you usually do.
Maybe, you’ll even be a coach. That’s one of the most important, impactful jobs a teacher can have. Talk to any coach anywhere – especially in high school – and they’ll tell you how special that privilege is. Maybe I’ll write about that soon: Why did you become a coach?
I can’t remember where I heard this, but if someone knows what I’m talking about, let me know. I believe it was an ESPN Sept. 11 thing about high school football and the importance of it. There’s a section of it where it talks about why being in the stands is so impactful because – at least on Friday nights – it sits you within everyone in your community, no matter what walk of life we’re in.
We may have different skin tones, political beliefs, religious beliefs – and whatever else – but, at minimum, we all have a love for a game. Especially in times like now, that’s so important.
So, while circumstances don’t allow kickoff to happen, know that it did in our hearts. I was torn up yesterday for everyone else involved. Know we – parents, your peers, coaches and everyone else – will be there for it when we can.