“What it was, was football!” The classic football monologue tells what a backwoods country Deacon Andy Griffith saw and experienced in 1953 when he “got in the wrong line,” pushing him toward a football gam. His recollections were hilarious. I cannot think of football without thinking how my Uncle Frank laughed till he couldn’t breathe the first time he heard it. Nor have I wondered about how many of the thousands of fans who probably love their team’s colors, cry during the alma mater and scream when they realize “THEY SCORED” secretly do not know what a holding call is. Aren’t they all just holding each other?
There’s just something about football. Maybe, it’s the pageantry. Something Friday-night-ish: Misty rain falling between you and the stadium lights; the band uniforms, the Friday-on-the-edge of Thanksgiving, the bonfires, the homecoming ‘mums, the friends you see only once a year — at homecoming.
And the heroes! Remember when Jalen Hurts was quarterback for Alabama, back in 2017? A little boy who was very sick had asked to meet Jalen. Jalen visited him at Children’s Hospital, not just once. The night before a big game, the child passed away. Jalen played the game for him, with the child’s name written on his wrist. “If he can be brave ...” — that’s football.
Remember Dre’ Kirkpatrick from Gadsden City High? A standout all-around athlete, plays cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals? He supplies shoes for hundreds of Gadsden-area students every year when school time rolls around. That’s football.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, recently donated 100-plus state of the art football helmets to his high school football team; they had lost their equipment to the fires that recently swept through that area of California. That’s football.
The playing field is quiet. The huge crowd rumbles to attention, a modicum of reverence. The snare drums start beating their dirge — quietly, then louder. Even cheerleaders stand with their backs to the crowd. All attention is on the school flag, the Christian flag, the American flag. The band moves smoothly from the alma mater of the school to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
No one trolls the crowd for that few minutes. The concession stand is paused — no soft drinks, because straws make a noise. No babies cry, no one breathes. This is for those who can never come to their football game again, who were left on foreign soil, who will never hear those songs again.
Then, the wild cheering and chanting begins. That is football.
That’s how I remember football. It has been 20 years since I’ve been to a high school football game and I fear that I would be quite lost. I would not know the cheers or the cheerleaders. But I would certainly know the significance of Arnold Lipscomb, Class of 1984, saying, “Don’t be worried; David ain’t gone deep!” How many would know, ‘round town?
Glenda Byars is a correspondent for The Gadsden Times. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.