Back to School

I’ve been a Steeler fan for a long time. I’ve gotten used to living in that skin. And even though actually experiencing the feel of an actual game day at the stadium is still a relatively new and exciting sensation, the hype and glitz around big time sports is sort of where my comfort zone is. And of course we can all watch players get ready for a season when we show up at camp and watch the pre-season games, but it’s easy to lose sight in all that slick packaging that surrounds a major sports franchise how long and hard a road a player travels just to get a shot in the NFL. That’s pretty rarified air. One tends to look at Brett Keisel and see a mountain of a man with a really big beard and forget that this wall of solid muscle once was just a little kid holding his mom’s hand on his way to school. He had to go from that beginning to where he is now in progressive steps that involved a lot of work, a lot of talent and a modicum of luck. I think it’s good for those of us who enjoy football played on a high level to reconnect with football on a more visceral level to really watch our favorite players on Sunday and have a better appreciation for them (which is no way to concede a point to my long ago friend who said I couldn’t be a fan because I am a girl). For Cowboy Fan Hubby and me that means taking in some local high school ball. And while Texas might lead the country in big time high school programs, where some local stadiums hold up to 15,000, Pennsylvania boasts a proud tradition of high school sports too, and we finally got to sample that last night.

It’s been a challenge getting to a game actually because Fridays at my work are generally the busiest, but the one we went to last night won’t be our last of the season for certain. The two teams boasted some individuals with athletic talent, but CFH estimated that no one we saw would be recruited for a major college program. I have a dog who’s probably larger than the most talented athlete on the field, so the kid’s size alone will hold him back. And while the home team won 14-0 in a mistake ridden, somewhat lopsided affair, it was still great fun. Americana at its best. It’s not just the football, it’s the whole experience that is sort of electric to be in the middle of: the booster club parents out in force selling raffle tickets and t-shirts, the little girls dressed as cheerleaders awkwardly trying to mimic the actual cheerleaders who are trying to look perky and spry despite the intermittent rain. Little boys tossing footballs around and looking longingly at the “big” kids down on the sideline waiting for the time when maybe it’ll be their turn. And of course there are the bands, providing the soundtrack for Friday nights all across the country. These are the glory days for many of the players down there on the field, I realized as I watched. None of those kids who were suited up will ever play for the Steelers or any other pro team for that matter, but they are having their moment. And their parents up in the stands, wearing their buttons with their kid’s faces on them, are having their moment too. We got to sit in the middle of all of it and take it in without really having to worry about any of the inherent drama that you know is swirling around somewhere, like it always is when hormone-driven kids are together in mass. We could be somewhat invisible and just take the whole pageant in. And the best part is that every so often an amazing thing would happen: an honest-to-gosh exciting football play. And it would happen immediately in front of us, treating us to an up-close and nearly personal experience at $5.00 a head.

We didn’t find the next Brett Keisel last night, but I came away thinking, “Now, this is really football!” Definitely worth the quest to keep looking!

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