Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Observations on Attending a High School Football Game

It's odd, standing inside your own microcosm, glaring out into the world, onto the football stadium where once stood a collection of pine trees under which the students would sneak away and smoke their cigarettes.  My mom and I decided to attend the Heritage High School vs. Salem High football game on 8/27/10, and out of it came very interesting observations.  It would be a sociologists dream, to look upon the whys and wherefores of this unusual gathering of children, teenagers, adults...etc... to witness a sporting event that, I am convinced, very few people cared little about.  Or maybe that's just my opinion transferred to them.

First off, the paying of tickets.  $7.00 for adults, and probably less for the students (maybe $5?).  The adults pay for their seats (unless they stood), but I wonder, with all the students in the stadium, the ones not sitting in the student section with their shirts off and red white and blue paint slathered all over themselves, did they actually pay to get into the game?  Couldn't they have just hopped a fence, or circled around the baseball field or the like, to slip in and enjoy the general fracas without paying money?  I probably think so.  I don't think that students would have wanted to pay money just to see a football game that, no matter how much pride one takes in winning against a county rivalry (and believe me, that would be a lot), that the actual football game would be worth paying that much for.  Or if they did, was it more for the social aspect of the game as the game itself?

I observed a distinct lack of attention being centered on the football game, and more on the people around them.  It became a social event, with the eyes as much focused backward as forward, toward the bazillions of silly bands on people's wrists, or slyly looking at the short lengths of girls shorts (if you want to call them that), than what play was actually called on the field.  These students see each other in the school all the time, and with lunchtime and between classes (and in classes, in most cases), they should have a ton of time to socialize without having to come back to school on a Friday night to see some game.  Wouldn't it have been just as much fun hanging out outside the McDonald's with the cars and teenagers than going to a sporting event where they know there will be tons of police officers around?  And yet, there they all were, mostly jubilant, laughing, carrying on, and having a good time.  I guess it is my own lack of social skills that made me think that a football game was just that, something to witness and watch, not a social activity around which the noise of the game occasionally filtered.  

The adults were very little different, talking more to their friends and family around them than watching the game.  This, however, I understand.  That $7.00 is a fair price to pay to convene at a certain spot and socialize outside of work and home.  There are very few places in this world for adult men and women to socialize.  I think that is the overall pull of churches and bars, as they are places you can talk to people who are not your co-workers.  The people around you have similar interests, be it religion or wine, and can share opinions about those things.  Usually, even in church, it centers around sports.  The evaluations of the defense or offensive line, the criticism of the coaches and of the team in general.  All of this is routinely discussed while nursing a beer, or a Bible.  But at a High School Football game, aside from roast coach every now and again, the talk seems to center on the children, which college they are going to, what scholarships they have, and nevermind the marching band or the football game going on.  That they see the scoreboard and cheer at the appropriate times is enough. 

And then there was the rain.  The clouds that built ever so slowly as the game went on, during the pleasant warm, but not hot, summer evening.  Until, after the sun had set and the clouds were merely blocking the moon and stars, it started to rain.  Hard.  A brief outburst that had the effect of sending everyone that had not graduated yet into a fit of hysterics.  And not because they were getting wet, as they minded that very little.  It was, I think, because they could.  It was permissible to clog up the pathways out of the stadium, stampeding like so many cattle out to someplace where they would be no less dry, but so much more chaotic.  The push out of the stadium became like some contagious disease, but not met with fear, but with laughter.  They enjoyed trampling over each other to reach some unknown destination.  They yelled and screamed and undoubtedly cursed, but laughed and smiled while doing it.  It was almost as if they paid (or didn't) to ramble around in the stadium until that very moment, when the inevitable rainstorm would vomit them out, with a pressure and a rush that was expected, yet surprising at the same time.  My mom and I stayed in the stadium until it started lightning, and then we made the slow track around the high school back to our car.  Heritage, where I graduated from, won the game, 24-7, but only after a 90 minute lightning delay, and in front of an empty stadium, because everyone had gone home.

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