Presented by Marv Wood with some revisions to an article by its author: “Luca”

(Previously the team physician for Loyola) a true high school football fan when he writes:

Technically, the New Year begins on January 1.  For High School Football fanatics it begins in August, during Hell Week and progressing through two-a-days and then that first Friday in September.

To everything there is a season.  The football season cycles around this time of year and those who await it live their own cycles.  You can see all the stages represented on any given Friday night.  There are the elementary school kids wearing their big brother’s varsity jersey or his Pop Warner/JAA uniform and staring wistfully at the field, dreaming of the day that it will be his turn to shine under the lights.  They’ll throw footballs around on the sidelines and on the field at halftime and after the game.  They studiously avoid the little girls who wear their cheerleader uniforms and never take their eyes off the dance team and varsity cheer, likewise dreaming of their turn. Someday!

Then there’s the players themselves.  Most of them, of course, are average athletes. Most of the teams will finish around .500. But nobody believes or even thinks about that the first week of September.  This is what they have been working for and dreaming about for up to half of their brief lives.  It’s September and hope springs eternal in the human breast. Maybe I’ll start, maybe I’ll make All-League, and maybe we’ll even be champions.  No matter how unlikely, everybody is a romantic in early September.  There is an innocence and purity and sense of hope that is both irresistible and inspiring when you watch these kids.  It’s like the triumphant look on a child’s face when he takes his first few steps.  Those of us who lived these days remember the emotions and see them resurrected every season.  And it keeps you coming back.  You wish that all of them could see their dreams fulfilled, could have that last glorious season before it all ends, as certainly it will…..not that you could ever convince them of that now.  You want to warn them that is some ways this is as good as it will ever get.  Embrace it, son, because few people in life get to go around twice.

And then you have the parents.  I don’t know why it is, but there is something awe-inspiring about watching your own son perform and succeed on a HSFB field. Parents suffer the same pregame anxieties, tension and anticipation.  They experience a type of pride and emotion they’ve never known before and could not possibly have anticipated. Everything else seems to fade into insignificance compared to next Friday night.  They live for the tailgate, the cheering section, the game itself and the post game activities.

You want to warn them that it’s going to be over so unbelievably soon.  They have no idea that winter follows hard upon the fall.  They will never again see four years pass so quickly. The party is over in a flash and the end may be devastating.  I don’t know if you have ever had as dramatic letdown as some do at their son’s season- ending, overtime playoff loss. All the practices, all the hours in the weight room, all the films, all the road trips and suddenly it’s 00.00. And you belatedly realize the golden moments have vanished and time has marched on, leaving you with a rolled up, obsolete game program and a set of memories that you will forever cherish: “Those were the days, my friend, We thought they’d never end”…..

 

And then you have the hangers on like me, with no kids involved , no athletic ability left, and no dreams of what might be. But you do have a perspective that the rest of them don’t have.  Those of us who have cycled through understand the value of this institution and in a way feel an obligation to maintain its integrity to the best of our limited abilities. We had our days on the field and we know what it did for us.  We know the values that it instilled and the priceless memories that it left us.  Without realizing it, HSFB molded us and imprinted a sense of loyalty, dedication and work ethic I’m not sure we could have realized otherwise.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. could have been talking about HSFB (rather than his Civil War memories) when he said: “Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire.”

No doubt it seems melodramatic-if not pretentious-to most, but as the seasons roll by and you see the kids in their big brothers’ varsity jersey turn into the overachieving defensive end, and then the hyperventilating euphoric parent and then, to your amazement, join you in your isolation on the hill from which you watch them all parade by, you understand that HSFB is timeless, inestimable value and purpose that most will never understand.  And it’s futile to try to explain because even if you make the attempt you will feel, as Winston observed, like history’s… “flickering lamp {which} stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echo’s, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days…”

No, you have to have cycled through and know the passion yourself to appreciate the value of this institution we call “high school football” – even if you now live far from home, find a local team you can support and go to their games.

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