Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Night Lights

I was talking to my neighbor Dave the other day and he asked me if I had seen the new television series, Friday Night Lights, about a film crew that follows a Texas high school through football season. (The series is based on the movie of the same name.) I told Dave that I didn't need to see the movie or watch the TV show - I had lived it. I think Dave thought I was joking. Clearly, Dave has not spent much time in Texas during football season. Scratch that. Clearly, Dave has not spent any time in Texas -- at all!

I flew back to Texas on Thursday so I could watch my "nephew's" last regular season high school football game. A little over an hour after landing, I was standing in a locker room, with my parents and about 15 mothers, decorating the lockers of the football players. Thirty minutes after that, I was in a circle, holding hands with the other decorators, while some lady prayed for the Lord's protection of the team during the Game. As I was leaving the locker room, I heard one mother shout, "Ok, everyone sitting in the Spirit Section -- don't forget your cowbells." Yes, I was firmly back in the great state of Texas.

Friday morning, or, Game Day, as it is known in these parts, I woke up to find my mother baking brownies for the team, something she has done every week during football season for the past two years. In my mother's mind, there is a direct relationship between her baked goods and the team's near perfect record. The team has lost only one game in 2 years -- and that was during the state playoffs last year. There has been some talk that the season-ending defeat, which, literally, came in the last second of the ballgame, was somehow tied to a new cookie recipe that my mother tried out. 2005 will always be remembered in our home as the year we didn't go to State because of mother's cookies. She threw out the recipe and, for good measure, the pan too!

While mother was busy baking up another win, Daddy and I went to get the BBQ for the tailgate party. We arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before the game started, to find the tailgate party in full swing. There was enough BBQ, chili, and taco soup to feed a small army, which is good, because that's exactly how many that showed up.

I really don't know how to describe the phenomenon that is Texas high school football to someone that has never experienced it. In fact, I don't know if it can be done. The movie, Friday Night Lights, came pretty close, but anyone from Texas could spot the film's biggest blunder -- no bonfire. There simply has to be a bonfire before the Big Game. No bonfire. No Big Game. No Texas high school football. (In Texas, every football game is known as "the Game." During regular season, the stress is on the word "game." If you are playing the town rivals, you put the stress on the word "the." If you are in the state playoffs, then both words are stressed. If you make it to the state championship, then it becomes, "the Big Game.")

I'm sure some people would say that high schools don't need instant replay. Some people may think that a theater equipped with Dolby-surround sound is a bit much for simply reviewing game films. Some people may think that watching a football game while sitting on metal bleachers, holding umbrellas, in one of the worse lightning storms of the season, is crazy. But, chances are, these people won't be from Texas.

Texas high school football is hearing someone in the stands talking about whuppin' the coach's ass -- and it is the grandmother of one of the players. Texas high school football is three-year old girls dressed as exact replicas of the cheerleaders, complete with face tattoos and pompoms. Texas high school football is twirlers, dancers and flag teams, and t-shirts that read, "I'm a proud band parent." Texas high school football is men who work all day, come to the game, and then drive all night so that they can be at the deer lease in time to hunt the next morning. Texas high school football is referees that don't call it both ways and fans (read: mothers) yelling that the option play that the other side is running is killing us, and that the offensive coordinator should have covered it in the game films.

Texas high school football is also the "Spirit Section." This is a sacred section of the bleachers reserved for those who don't mind standing up the entire game and who possess some sort of noise-making mechanism, whether it be cowbell, a coke bottle filled with rocks, a giant hand clapper, a loud mouth, etc.. Please don't confuse this with the "Student Section." Similar, yet, very, very different.

I'm not sure who runs the Spirit Section for my high school, but clearly there are certain requirements to gain entry. First, it would appear that you have to wear the school colors, preferably in a t-shirt with the picture of one of the players on it, or, in a pinch, a jersey with his number. I did see a couple of people with "I'm the grandmother of (insert jersey number here)", "I'm a cousin of (insert jersey number here)", "My son is (insert jersey number here)" or some variation thereof. It's amazing how much kin you can pack into a section of bleachers.

Second, there's a type of protocol that exists in the Spirit Section. If you don't follow it, you will be asked to leave and/or, in extreme circumstances, be banned from sitting in the section. For instance, you absolutely have to sit in the same spot. If you leave your seat, for any reason, you must return to the exact seating position as before or risk throwing off the team's good karma. Last night, one lady was not allowed re-entry to the Section after she left at half-time to talk to her husband, who, apparently, must not be that fond of cowbells. It's a tough crowd, I tell you.

I, for one, did not sit in the Spirit Section. I didn't want to sit by some crazy lady with a megaphone who makes up her own cheers. It's okay, my mother understood. At halftime, I went to check on my mother, whom I see only 2-3 times a year since I started splitting my time between San Diego and Europe. The score was 22-0 -- we had the nothing. Mother told me that I was going to have to go back to California. She was convinced that my mere presence at the game was "bad ju-ju" and, therefore, I was the reason why we were losing. Incredibly, she was serious. Apparently, not only had I been banned from the Spirit Section, I was dangerously close to being run out of town on a rail -- BY MY OWN MOTHER! I was also running the risk of going down in history as being the reason why the team (potentially) didn't go to state in 2006. Texas. High School. Football.

I guess one of the best ways to sum up Texas high school football is to tell you about Grandpa Kaiser. Grandpa Kaiser is 89 years old. The last football game that one of his grandchildren played in was 20 years ago. Grandpa Kaiser was hospitalized all week long, but, at 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon, he started calling for his doctor. When he couldn't get in touch with his doctor, he called the Personnel Department at the Hospital to have them hunt him down. You see, Grandpa Kaiser had to be released before 5:00 pm so that he could make it to the Game. Folks, that's Texas high school football!

Last night, Grandpa Kaiser and I, along with about 300 other soaking-wet, die-hard fans, saw one of the best football games ever played. Ever. Barbers Hill came back from a 22-0 deficit to tie the game with less than a minute to go on the clock. They ended up winning the game during sudden death overtime, after an hour delay for lightning (I bet you thought I was kidding about this earlier!). It was, quite simply, Texas High School Football at its best.
Barbers Hill 28 Galena Park 22

Copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Anonymous Manic said...

Texas football is wack. I thought all that stuff was made up by the movie directors, but how you describe it-very vividly I might, or must, add- it makes me wanna go check it for myself.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bah, that's nothing. You apparently haven't sat through a pee wee soccer game with three generations cheering their four-year-olds on to victory. I've watched coaches reduced to tears by angry grandmas offended by a call. What is it about sports?!

2:17 PM  
Blogger Cindy Lane said...

Sports do seem to bring out the worst in the spectators.

I was watching one of my nephew's little league baseball games and one of his team members was up at bat. The pitch was inside and the little boy jumped back to avoid getting hit by the ball. From the stands, we heard his grandmother yell, "Jesse, let him hit you. At least you know you will get on base!"

Perhaps it's not sports, but the grandmothers. Maybe they should be doing the coaching ...

6:38 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

Brings back memories of my years in Oklahoma.

Go Big Red!

7:37 PM  

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