Friday, September 18, 2015

I'm ready for some football

I don't really lament never having cable television.  When the antennae outside my living room window became obsolete back in 2009 as local stations switched to digital, I didn't give a hoot.  After spending the better part of the previous year in Big Sur where I had no access to news, radio, magazines, or anything else media-related, I got used to using my laptop as a glorified DVD player.  And upon returning to Ohio in the fall of 2008, watching television was the last thing on my mind.
But times have changed.
It's not that I'm a walking TV Guide like I used to be when I was kid.  I don't miss network shows, and I don't really know what's hot on HBO or Showtime.  Friends who know me well recommend stuff I might like, and over the years I've devoured every episode of The Tudors and Rome and Six Feet Under.  This summer I revisited the delightful series Call the Midwife, and of course thirtysomething  and Northern Exposure are "go to" shows whenever I'm feeling nostalgic.  I even watched A Christmas Story during the last heat wave in the hopes I could trick my autonomic nervous system into thinking it was wintertime.  (It worked...sort of.)
A couple of weeks ago while perusing the aisles at Sanger Library, I came upon Friday Night Lights, a television series that takes place in Dillon, Texas where high school football reigns supreme.  Since checking out season one, I've been hooked...and it's often hard to make myself go to bed when there's another episode waiting on the DVD.  Maybe it's the phenomenal acting (I've been keeping an eye out for Kyle Chandler, who plays head coach Eric Taylor,  ever since he starred in Homefront), or perhaps its the unconventional way in which it's directed and filmed (which reminds me of the plays I had staged managed many moons ago).  Still, it could be that autumn is just around the corner and I'm ready for some football.

When I was a student at Bowsher High School, I didn't miss a single game my senior year.  Sure I had a huge crush on one of the varsity players, but over the course of the season I also developed a love for the sport.  I learned what it meant to sack the quarterback and why the coach often decided to go for the two point conversion.  I figured out who the fastest running backs were and how hard it can be to punt under pressure.
Years later when a friend's son played as a free safety for the University of Toledo, I often braved bitterly cold temperatures in the Glass Bowl and enthusiastically cheered Andy and the Rockets to victory.  He taught me the importance of wingspan and agility, particularly since he was considered to be the quarterback of the defense team.  Later on when Andy was being looked at by professional scouts, I stretched him out before try-outs and listened intently while he explained the nuances of being able to read the other team's offense in an instant.  It was then that I learned that football is more than just a sport.  When  well executed, it's like an intricate, fast moving game of chess.

Professional ball isn't really my thing, for if I'm going to spend a couple of hours watching a game, I'd prefer it to be on the college or high school level.  My pal, Satish, is enthralled with college football and when we hang out in the fall, he keeps me up to date on who's leading in the ranks.  It's not often I can catch a game at his house, but when I do, Satish is quick to point out the stuff I miss and is patient to a fault when I repeatedly ask which plays stop the clock and which ones keep it running.  And yet, while I enjoy being able to see the game up-close instead of being crammed into a stadium, there's something to be said for being there in person.
Now that I've spent some time watching Friday Night Lights, I'm thinking about checking out Whitmer High School's football schedule and maybe heading over for the next home game.  All of my first graders have graduated (I'm delighted to say that over the years, many of them played for the Panthers), but many of my former colleagues still go to a game or two every year.  And it's been a while since I've sat in the bleachers on a chilly night with a cup of hot chocolate and a smile on my face while I watch a group of kids learn more than just the rules of engagement. 
          You won't find me yelling or cheering like I did in years past.  No.  These days I'm more interested in focusing on the strategy.  The sportsmanship.  The camaraderie of the players.   The way the teams respond to winning...or losing.  As a writer, it's all grist for the mill.  But more than observing, I want to feel a part of something that's inherently a part of this autumnal season of change.  Something more than pumpkin-spiced-everything and raking leaves and warm, wooly sweaters. 
I'm ready for some football...and I've got to believe there's more to it than just the sport.  Perhaps I'm ready to get back into the game of life and a fabulous Friday night cheering on a local team might be just the ticket I need.  Like Coach Taylor always reminds his team:  Clear eyes...full hearts...can't lose.