Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Friday Night Lights

Will has been less enthused about attending high school football games than I expected him to be (and quite frankly, than I wanted him to be), but when we found out Hallie would be singing the National Anthem at one of his high school's games, I bought tickets for all of us and told him he was going. Thankfully, he didn't object.

Disclaimer: when I started writing this post I'd forgotten both that we attended a high school football game our first or second fall in Texas and that I wrote about it here. But I decided that Friday Night Lights is a big enough deal in Texas that I could write about experiencing it a second time, 10 years later.

There's a reason a book was written and a television series was created about high school football in Texas. Spending Friday night with a few hundred - or even a couple thousand - of your "closest friends", cheering on the hometown team while watching everyone's kids, from the football players to the band members to the dance team and cheerleaders, show off the skills they've worked on for weeks, months, and even years... There are few experiences more unifying and uplifting. When you walk into a high school stadium on a fall Friday night, you can feel the reason "Friday Night Lights" is a phrase we all know and understand. 

Hallie and I arrived early so she could warm up her vocal chords, so I spent a good 45 minutes watching from the stands as game preparations took place around me. Football players warming up under the direction of their assistant coaches. Head coaches talking through (what I can only assume were) game plans and strategies. Paramedics parking their ambulance and prepping their equipment. Student athletic trainers gathering their supplies. Managers laying out towels and water bottles. Audiovisual team members setting up and checking microphones and video cameras. Cheerleaders and dance team members preparing for halftime performances. Concession stand volunteers firing up the popcorn and hotdog machines. As fans began to file in, the anticipation of the excitement to come swept through the stadium in palpable waves. 

And then, from off in the distance, the drums. They started off so softly that I wasn't sure if the beat I could feel as much as hear was real or imagined, but then they grew louder and fuller, until there was no question that the band - in all its coordinated, synchronized glory (something beautiful to those of us who thrive on organization, structure, and symmetry) - was nearing the stadium. 

I was nearly giddy when Tom and Will finally arrived so I would have someone to "be excited at" about all of the activity going on around me. Thankfully, my boys humored me, and eventually they both started to feel the Friday Night Lights effects themselves. 

He willingly took this picture with me.

Hallie and her fellow choir members did a beautiful job singing the National Anthem. Our football team won the game. Both schools' marching bands offered up incredible halftime performances. The other school's drill team performed an excellent halftime routine. (Much to our dismay, our drill team didn't perform because they were worried that the particular dance they had prepared couldn't be performed safely on the wet field.) Everyone who had a job to do that night did their job well enough that the rest of us could - for a few hours - forget about that which weighs us down and instead come together in support of our community's kids. 

Front row, blue shirt. Next to the tall kid in the light pink shirt.

We lost Will to his friends.

I know I sound like I've downed a little too much of the Friday Night Lights Kool-Aid. And maybe I have. (I haven't consumed nearly as much as some Friday Night Lights fans though - I can promise you that.) But I didn't have these experiences in high school, and while I certainly don't need to repeat high school or live vicariously through Will, and I am going to enjoy the excitement surrounding these high school - and traditional Texas - events.

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