By Rob Reilly
A few weeks back, my wife and I escorted our eldest daughter to her first high school football game.
There we were, up in the bleachers, rooting for the team. Over to the right were the crazy, blue-painted students in their roped-off cheering section, hooping and hollering with every touchdown. To our far left sat the band. They sounded great. The smell of fall and hot dogs filled the air. Our team had squeaky, clean new uniforms and absolutely beat the stuffings out of the visiting team.
The first high school game is an absolute rite of passage for any red-blooded American teenager. Not soccer. Not cricket. Not interpretive dance. Good old in-the-mud high school football.
There’s a reason why the same Friday night tradition continues to be played out across America, year after year after year.
The courage, prosperity, and promise characterized by high school football is a metaphor for what we call the American Way.
Look at the courage needed to run out of that tunnel and face another team on the field of competition, whether they are a championship team or one with a 0-10 season. The rules are enforced by officials committed to the notion of fair play. Players learn to respect each other, officials, the coaches, and themselves. Everybody knows that one team will win and one will lose. The students have the courage to stand up, side by side and cheer on their team, regardless of any disagreements that might exist among individuals. When a game is over, both teams, put it behind them and start getting ready for the next challenge. While competition can be fierce, shaking hands after the game is considered honorable and the right thing to do. In other words, high school football represents a civil society.
Prosperity is reflected in the simple fact that your school has a team, in the first place. Think of the logistics and organization required before the first player sets foot on the field. Sure, the school system probably capitalizes the stadium, but don’t forget about all the people that are extremely generous with their time, money, and encouragement in an effort to get the job done. Coaches, administrators, students, parents, vendors, and sponsors all pull together to make a football program happen. Without hard work, dedication, commitment, and accomplishment there is no high school football. Prosperity occurs when people voluntarily give, not because they are forced to participate. The prosperity ingrained in high school football cannot possibly exist in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, or North Korea.
Lastly, high school football promotes the promise of the future. Try-outs, practice, pep rallies, and games are scheduled and played. Everyone knows that tomorrow is a new start, a new beginning, a new challenge, a new day. High school football can be a stepping stone to any number of new opportunities, both on and off the field. Students know that they only get four years of high school football and then they have to move on, possibly leaving the field for perhaps 10, 20, or even 30 years. The time will come when their children experience the excitement of their first game. The future in high school football terms is timeless and as solid as the American spirit.
So here we are, five days out from the most important election in American history. Cold, evil, and soul-less people are trying to shut off the lights, buy off the refs, steal candy from the concession stand and step on our quarterback’s hand. We won’t let them tarnish the game.
The American spirit is epitomized in high school football. Honor, commitment, fair play, hard work, and accomplishment always produce a successful team…and country.
Next Tuesday, I’ll be voting to make sure my daughter’s younger sisters experience the magic of their first American high school football game.
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