Tonight was our high school football team's first home game. The bleachers were awash in maroon and black. I bought a new T-shirt myself just yesterday for the occasion. Although it rained most of the day today, the evening was perfect for football - temps in the high 60s with a light, cool breeze.
We cheered each time the team moved the ball down the field. We booed when the other team slammed our boys with late hits - twice in the same possession. We hollered our approval when our defense kept the other team out of the endzone, and some of us even clapped with the cheerleaders.
We lost the game 28-0.
There were lots of reasons for the loss, but my point tonight has nothing to do with dissecting plays. The biggest reason we lost is that the other team scored more points. (I stole that bit of sarcastic wit from my husband.)
What I want to focus on is that tonight's loss will more than likely have little to no effect on the attendance at the next home game. Anyone who has ever attended their local school's sporting events knows this to be true. Winning the game feels great for all involved but it isn't really why we go. At least, it isn't why most of us go.
We go to support the athletes on the field. Maybe they're related to us. Maybe they're our friends. Maybe they're our students. Or, maybe we don't know any of them at all, but we do know their parents or their grandparents. Somewhere, there's a connection between those of us in the bleachers and those on the field.
Sometimes, that connection is simply a vicarious one.
I went to the game tonight for a couple of reasons. My daughter performed with the marching band and her color guard at halftime, and I wanted my students to see me in the stands, to know I support them outside the classroom as well as inside.
But sitting there, watching the teenagers walk back and forth, back and forth, paying more attention to each other than they were to the game, I was carried back to high school. When a middle school girl stood on the ground in front of the bleachers and yelled up to a boy somewhere behind me in the stands, "Brandon, Amber likes you!" all I could do was smile. Who among us doesn't remember a similar exchange among our friends when we were thirteen or fourteen years old? And having the distance of (in my case) thirty-some years, we can smile now at the outburst rather than bury our faces in our hands in mortification.
Going to tonight's game hopefully strengthened my connections with some of my students. I know it made my daughter happy to have me there. But it also - for a moment or two - bridged several decades for me and allowed that teenager who I swear still lives inside me to take a few breaths of fresh, crisp, almost-autumn air. And it wasn't even homecoming.