Attending a high school football game on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon is an experience in sensory overload. The sights of young men competing on the gridiron, the cheerleaders exhorting those in the stands. The games are a great place to people watch as many from all walks of life attend each week. The aromas of food waft from the concession stands. As the season progresses are the fleeting remnants of warmth reminding us of how the weather will rapidly change in the weeks and months to come.
Then there are the sounds. Oh, those sounds. Arrive long before kickoff and the cheerleaders may be practicing their routine. The band tunes their instruments. If you are fortunate they will be play well before the start of the contest. A good band certainly is preferable to what is blared over the PA systems at many venues during the pregame.
Some of the more interesting, and sometimes not so interesting, sounds come from the utterances of the spectators. Attend enough high school football games each week and you’ll encounter these very same situations I’m about to describe.
Many who attend high school football games do so because they have a relative playing. You may not have seen these people before their loved one joined the hometown team and likely will not see them after they graduate. For these fans, their only football experience may be watching the NFL on Sundays. That doesn’t stop them from loudly displaying their ignorance when those Friday night lights are shining. “Why is the clock stopped”? Well, in high school football the clock stops momentarily when the offense achieves a first down. The clock restarts when the chains are in place and the ball is set for play. Notice, the same spectators don’t mind the clock stopping when their team is behind.
“Throw the football”. If you attend high school basketball games in the winter, you’ll likely run into this individual again. Instead of throw it, it’ll be be “shoot it”. It won’t matter if the player in possession of the ball is open or not. The concept of running the football to set up the pass is foreign to this species.
Of course, there is always the resident offensive coordinator in the crowd. Likely, they played a little high school ball, whose only play calling experience comes from playing Madden on PlayStation or XBox . The credentials of the high school head coach does not matter. They could be a hall of fame coach, yet they need to “mix it up more” on offense. Remember: often high school football games are not won or lost by who wins the “chess match”. Sometimes the best adjustments are simply executing what you do at a very high level.
There are those who like to gather and reminisce about their glory days. In their minds they were much tougher than this soft generation of athletes. The tales get taller with each passing year.
Go anywhere on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon and the officials take a verbal beating, with some fan bases more so than others.. I attended a contest a couple weeks ago when a spectator just would not let up. Every call seemed to go against her team. Even when the calls would go in her squad’s favor, she’d yell out a sarcastic cheer. She had worked up quite the rage. No one within earshot of this loudmouth dared to remind her the score was 36-0 and the contest hadn’t reached halftime yet. Obviously, well not so obvious to her, the officials were the least of her team’s concerns. There is a fine line sometimes between fanatic and lunatic which often gets crossed.
Then there are the sportsmanship police. I’m sure you’ve heard them. The irony is, as was the case on this aforementioned evening, the same people who were lambasting the officials also whined about a lack of sportsmanship. Now, I’m not talking about the egregious cheap shots or showboating that most sensible people would take issue with. I’m talking about every perceived slight by whoever is associated with the opposing team, be it the fans, players, coaches, announcer, etc. If the game is a rout, the winning team’s starters cannot be out soon enough. Never mind the team that is behind still has starters on the field. Never mind that in football teams only play once a week. Never mind many of the players on the bench will play in a JV game in a matter of a few days.
If you’ve been in the habit of attending high school football games you’re probably reliving some of those sounds in your head as you read this article. Perhaps you identify yourself or someone you know. I’m confident that as long as we have Friday night lights and Saturday afternoon gridiron action, these sounds will never fade away.