Football. My husband loves it. I hate it. I never knew why until this past weekend when we went to a game where my granddaughter, Carly, performed at half-time. Her school, Lake Travis, was playing the Vista Ridge Rangers at their stadium in Cedar Park. I must confess, I did try to get out of going at the last minute ( I have a bad habit of doing that). My back hurt and I was anxious about sitting on bleachers for a long period of time. Besides, I had told Mike I would help him grout the tile in our family room the next day. I HAD to get to the chiropractor immediately if I was going to do that. And…. I hate football. Mike assured me that our daughter-in-law had stadium seats with backs, and his friend, Harvey, would help him with the floor. Plus, I had never seen our granddaughter perform with the Cavalettes at a football game, and this is her senior year. He was convincing.
Having never been to a football game in Texas, I did not know what to expect. When we arrived, the sun was shining and it was 76 degrees. I had no need yet for my hooded coat, mittens and blanket that I hauled up the concrete steps ( that were fitted nicely with railings), so I stuffed them under the aluminum bleachers after realizing my legs were sweating beneath the layers. I had never seen a more superior high school football stadium . We were in the first row directly in front of the 5o yard line, where Carly would be performing. A metal railing separated us from the officials, coaches, players, and any others who would gather below us, but we still had a remarkable view of the field and players. There was not even a hint of a breeze, and gazing down the front row of bleachers, I saw mostly sandaled feet whose toes were adorned with a rainbow of colors. Well, right now MY double-socked feet were just fine in my combat boots. The grass smell of games from my past was not there, but the artificial turf did look nice. Some players were wearing shorts with their jerseys. That, too, was different. As the ebbing sun painted the sky with red and pink, I began to feel that ignoring the upcoming game and concentrating on the beautiful surroundings and good company, would indeed make this a joyous night.
And then the game began. There are a few things I do know about the game of football. Each team tries to carry the ball across the line to make a touchdown. The ball carrier has to be sure to go the right way. At some point during the game, one player takes the ball and passes it under his legs to a person behind him who might catch it . Sometimes the officials throw this little flag down on the field and the timeclock stops. Then they have to start all over again. When I was in high school, my very adept English/journalism teacher, Mrs. Biersbach (who was also the supervisor of cheerleaders), tried to teach us the rules for all team sports. The rules for English stuck to my brain cells like a strong magnet to steel. The rules for football never even made it into my head and are probably still floating around with the ghosts in my recently rebuilt hometown high school. However,with a meager knowledge of the game and the identification of which players were “ours,” I immediately began to follow what was happening on the field. Suddenly a player started sprinting down the field expertly avoiding any tackler coming his way. I turned to Mike, “Is that guy ours?”
“Yup!” he said.
Without hesitation, I began clapping and screaming, “Go! Go! Go!”
Touchdown! I stood up and yelled louder. Whoa! What just happened? Did I do that ? Glancing at my husband, I saw a slight smile on his face. My heart was happy. But also confused. I could get into this. And when those guys that were “ours” continued to make touchdowns, I did get very into it. So my question to myself was, “Why do you hate football?” The thought nagged at me the more I enjoyed the game.
Each time Lake Travis made a touchdown, five or six boys carrying huge school flags literally ran down the entire football field in celebration. Second from the front was a little guy who was slightly overweight and struggled as he ran, but he never gave up. My heart ached for him, as it had for my 6th grade son when he labored on the basketball court, his cheeks and tummy flapping with those few extra pounds. Maybe I hated football because it reminded me of that. But I loved basketball! And the next year when he played football, he had lost weight and even made a touchdown. That should make me LOVE football. Right?
So what was it then that made me a hater of this sport of the pigskin? My answer came as the minutes clicked closer to halftime, and the two school bands began to congregate on the sidelines of the football field. They had been playing throughout the first half, but my focus had been on the game (surprisingly), and I had taken little notice of the bands. Now, however, my eyes were drawn to them, marveling at the similar flashy uniforms worn by the members of each band, the bright red plumes attached to their caps, and the tubas. The TUBAS. How could anyone ignore the tubas that flashed in the lights that now illuminated the field? One side had thirteen, the other eight. There were twenty-one tubas on that football field! More tubas than I had ever seen at one time in one place in my entire lifetime! Wow! Amazing – compared to the two tubas (or was it three?) in MY high school band. And there it was. My answer: HIGH SCHOOL BAND!
How could THAT make me hate football? I loved playing in the band, and we had an awesome director. Tough? Yes. Nasty sometimes? Yes. But he put together an A+ band that sounded fantastic and won awards! After my graduation, he and I both moved to Northern State College, where I played in his concert band for one year. Dr. Darwin Walker went on to conduct award-winning college bands and to eventually write a textbook, Teaching Music: Managing The Successful Music Program. So high school band is why I hate football? Yes, indeed!
Fall is football; football is fall, and fall in South Dakota is cold. Even in the daytime, the temperature does NOT reach 76 degrees. But during the football game, whatever the temperature, whatever the wind speed, the band plays on. And I was in the band – playing an E flat clarinet (about half the size of a B flat clarinet) with frozen fingers….. and toes….. and nose and cheeks and ears and any other body part which was not covered. Some band members may not have minded the 50 or 40 0r 30-degree weather. Tuba players, for example, have only a few keys to push. Playing a clarinet involves the use of every one of those chilled digits.Try trilling a couple of notes with fingers that refuse to move. Puckering lifeless lips around a reeded instrument is also troublesome, especially when you are sitting in the stands playing the “Fight” song, and your shivering body is attempting to shake off the frost. Add to that the halftime challenge of marching and playing at the same time, always with knees raised as high as possible, numbed feet stepping in time to the beat, and eyes (if you can see through glazed-over glasses) focused on your music AND on the players to your right to be certain you are in perfect formation at all times. Just thinking about marching on the football field brings back repugnant memories of that bitter chill. THAT, coupled with the fact that finding ways to keep warm prevented me from concentrating on the complexities of the game, is why I hate football!
The reason I had gone to this game, of course, had nothing to do with football. Carly’s Cavalettes performed superbly during halftime, dressed as Zombies and dancing to “Thriller” with legs kicked higher than my head. In a stunning ending, the Zombies in their skimpy costumes fell to the ground writhing ( as Zombies do) on the toasty turf warmed earlier by the Texas sun. Not exactly something one would want to do at a South Dakota football game. The bands fared not so well, in my opinion. Even with the combined count of twenty-one tubas (and I’m certain at least seventy-six trombones), the sound of neither band came close to mimicking the music coming from the icy instruments of the magnificent Mobridge High School Band!
Ah, yes…. the game. The Lake Travis Cavaliers beat the Rangers in a score of 61 to 7. And there is a distinct possibility that Grandma (who hates football not so much anymore) may attend a game or two in the future.