Sunday, October 25, 2009

Football fantasy

posted Sun, 24 Oct 2004

I really want to see the movie “Friday Night Lights,” but every time I think I might go, something better comes along, like sitting on the front porch swing with a book. The weather here in autumn is stunning. If it were rainy and nasty out, I might be tempted to spend the afternoon at the movies, but today is just too pretty.

It’s not that I am a big football fan, but the book was excellent (not that Hollywood does such a great job of translating the books I like into movies). The writer spent a year living in Midland/Odessa chronicling the rivalry between the two towns. Midland is where the oilfield executives and managers lived, Odessa was where the blue-collar workers lived. The rivalry between the towns played out on the football field.

I attended only one year of high school in Texas – my senior year – but that, along with going to college in Texas and having many college friends who went to Texas high schools and who played high school football helped me understand Texas high school football culture a bit.

People take football seriously there. In some small towns, it’s the only thing there is. People from outside of Texas like to think this passion is something only for the ignorant, the unsophisticated and the uneducated.

My college friend Randy, who grew up in Daingerfield, where his dad worked at the steel mill and his mom was a school aide, got his PhD at Harvard and is now a chemistry professor at the University of Houston. When Daingerfield played in the state 2A championships at Baylor stadium in Waco, we all drove from Houston to the game with him.

My college boyfriend played high school football. He majored in electrical engineering and physics, was Phi Beta Kappa, got his PhD at Cal Tech, and is now a professor at UVA.

Let’s just lay those “ignorant, unsophisticated, and uneducated” myths to rest, shall we?

Even now, Texas high school football comes up in the weirdest places. A consultant I work with grew up in Venezuela and went to college in Miami, but spent some time in Houston – oilfield brat. He played high school football – and played my high school for the Texas 5A football championship in 1984. In case you are not from Texas, this is big stuff. My school, Judson, (which I HATED, BTW – I only went there my senior year), played his, Dulles, at Aggie Stadium.

It was surreal – having this conversation about my high school more than 20 years after graduating with someone whom I had met at work. Another guy on the project went to the high school I would have gone to if I had lived four blocks east. We are not even in Texas!

I didn’t particularly care for high school football when I was in high school, although my dislike might have been more be for the high school than the football part. My first three years in high school were spent in the Panama Canal Zone at Balboa High School. Balboa had two football teams; the high school on the Atlantic side of the Canal had one; and the junior college had one team. There were four teams – enough so there could be some games. Football was not a big deal.

But our teachers all had master’s degrees in their subjects and we got new books and there were subjects like marine biology and physiology.

It was a shock to get to Texas and Judson High School, where I was one of two new students in the senior class of 648 students. The math books were over ten years old (not that math changes that much, but still), but we had a brand-new football stadium. A few years after I graduated, the enrollment had grown enough that they needed to build a new school, but rather than build a new high school, they built a new campus for the freshmen and sophomores and kept the juniors and seniors at the old school.

If you haven’t figured it out – to keep the pool of potential football players larger, that’s why. That’s how important it is to some people.

(NB: Sundays are pro games, Saturdays are college games, and Fridays are high school games. Hence, “Friday Night Lights”)

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