I went to a high school football game a while back.
After taking the past two years off due to health issues, it felt good to be back prowling the sidelines again, dodging tumbling players and searching for the perfect picture.
Even though it was the last game of the season, it wasn’t particularly cold. 50 degrees with a light breeze and misty rain. Just enough to nudge me to pull my big, brown hat down over my glasses.
I grabbed a cool hot dog and a hot coffee at the concession stand and headed out toward the field.
The home and away crowds were small, but with some prompting from the cheerleading squads, would loud for their size.
I strolled up and down the sidelines of each team, being sure to get a couple of pics, including the chain gang.
After halftime I took the last of my photos.
I walked toward the end zone where I paused and glanced across the field. I watched as a coach talked to a group of young men. The scoreboard was visible in the background. Suddenly, I realized: I had stood in this same spot 20 years earlier.
Then I thought to myself: How many football games have I seen? How many different football fields? How many cities and villages? How many snow or ice covered late-season nights? Or early season games wearing a t-shirt and covered in big juice?
In my mind I could hear the thump, thump of the base drum as the band marched onto the field to play the national anthem. Cold hotdogs, warm popcorn and hot coffee. Raffle tickets, hats, mugs and cupcakes sold by the PTO, raising money for any number of kids programs. Young boys and girls playing football in the shadows behind the bleachers, away from the field, oblivious to everything else that’s going.
A high school football game in Northern Michigan isn’t just a football game. It’s an event,
Friends, family and parents. Brothers, sisters and grandparents all come together to cheer on their favorite student-athlete.
A gathering of communities. To be a participant in the competition and camaraderie of the game itself, but to also be part of something bigger:
The tradition of Northern Michigan high school football.
I love being part of this. I hope it never goes away.