What do I like about high school football on a Friday night?
Lights, food, bands and more highlight the experience. Let’s take a look:
This may make no sense at all but as I drive toward a school, I still enjoy seeing the light towers illuminating the field. There’s something anticipatory about the glow, a promise of the excitement, emotion and physicality that’s to come. Either that, or I just like bright lights.
I’ll be blunt. I am not a fan of boiled hot dogs. Rarely, if ever, do I sample the concession fare at a high school game. But more and more private vendors are showing up at high school games and I’m a sucker for a good carne asada burrito or tasty barbecue. The only problem: I never know which schools have the good stuff and which schools are peddling those mushy boiled hot dogs.
THE PREGAME TALK
If I get to a game early enough, one of my favorite things to do is walk onto the field and have a chat with the head coach. Of course, the length of the chat depends on the coach. Some coaches are so wound up, even 90 minutes before the game, that it’s hard to get much out of them. Others, like Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan, will talk as long as you want. Those conversations, which often stray away from football, are often my favorite memory of the night.
A couple of years ago, I got into trouble for jokingly tweeting that a band had overstayed its welcome on the field and was delaying the second half. Two band moms were none-to-happy with me and came up to the press box to verbally accost me. The truth is, I appreciate all the hard work that goes into the performances and, I’ll admit, the no-nonsense renditions of the Star Spangled Banner. Just one request: Goldfinger.
Most Friday nights I’m in the press box because it’s easier to fulfill my social-media responsibilities – tweeting, live chat, etc. – on the computer than it is the phone. But there’s nothing like watching a game from the sideline. I can see how the players react. I can hear conversations between players, or coach to player or coach to official. The color I get from being on the sideline is a reporter’s dream. There is one drawback, though: Trying to dodge players as they head out-of-bounds. As I’ve found out, they’re quicker than I am.
I don’t enjoy seeing players cry when their season ends in defeat. It’s heartbreaking. But there’s something about how much they care, how much the game, the season and their teammates mean to them that makes me emotional, as well. If you see a middle-aged guy wiping at his damp eyes after a playoff game next year, well, it’s nice not to be cynical in that moment.
THE STUDENT SECTIONS
A confession: When I went to Thunderbird High School, I was in a student cheering section called the “Snakepit.” We might have, ahem, been called into the principal’s office on one occasion. Ever since then, I’ve been a sucker for noisy and creative student bodies.
Give me a parking lot that makes for an easy, quick exit and I’m a happy man. On the other hand, I’m just wondering who came up with the lots that funnel all traffic into one, maybe two exits. Must have been the guy who designed the Lincoln Tunnel.
THE GAME ITSELF
OK, so it’s not the NFL or college football, and there are nights when some team can’t do something as simple as a shotgun snap. But there are also players who take your breath anyway — former Saguaro star Christian Kirk is a prime example — and games that are as dramatic as anything you’ll see in college and pro ball.
Give it a try some Friday night. You won’t regret it.