Cheering for the Bulldogs

It was a great season of high-school football. Our team was really good, both on and off the field, and 13 and 1 is something a lot of high schools only dream of.

I love high-school football. It wasn’t always that way. For more than 40 years, I never went to a high-school football game, despite being an avid sports fan.
Oh, I always was there during my years at Raytown High School in the Kansas City suburbs. It was the thing to do then, and several thousand people turned out to see the Blue Jays, a regional power, pummel someone on Friday nights.
I remember, as editor of the high-school paper, the aren’t-we-something story when the high school bought the old stadium lights from Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, where the Kansas City Athletics played. We had the best-lit field in the region.
But when I left for college, I also left behind high-school football. I’ve followed the ups and downs of the Missouri Tigers ever since.
And I’ve adopted other college teams in or near cities where I’ve lived. Now we’re beginning to follow Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
But I never paid much attention to high-school athletics. In the early ‘90s, I had a daughter at T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S.C. I still never went to a game; I would drop her off and pick her up when it was over. She and her friends were there for the social experience. Most times she would know which team won, but not the score.
Even when T.L. Hanna football was made famous in the movie “Radio,” and people flocked from other states to get a glimpse of the real Radio (not the Cuba Gooding Jr. variety), I still never got there.
What changed all that was having our son Joe play trombone in the Florence High School band when we were living in Alabama. Jenny started helping out, along with a bunch of other band parents, and I went along to see Joe play.
The rap on band parents, of course, is that they just go to see the band. Some are so consumed with the band that they never watch the game. Soon, however, I found I was watching the games with as much enthusiasm as I was watching the band.
There’s something about cheering for high-school players that is missing in college and the pros. Maybe it is knowing that the rest of the week the players are in class, doing their homework and making good enough grades to play.
Generally, they’re not taking cash from alums, stealing laptops, getting into bar fights or quitting school after a year to try their luck at professional football.
And I’ve come to appreciate how a high-school football team often is the focal point of a community. When we moved to New Albany, I decided to keep going to high-school games.
Win or lose, it’s the perfect way to spend a Friday night. It’s only nine months until I’ll be back in the bleachers, cheering the Bulldogs at Kitchens Field.

T. Wayne Mitchell, publisher of the Gazette, can be reached by phone at 662-534-6321 or by e-mail at publisher@newalbanygazette.com.

About Chris Elkins

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