I get the same look every single year.
“I would rather go to a high school football game, than an NFL game.”
“What? Are you crazy? That is so dumb! So dumb!?”
Then I explain why and their reaction always is, “I see your point now.”
High school football to me is more than 100 yards and 22 players on the field. It is the band. It is the parents. It is the grandparents. It is tradition. It is the bus ride with your teammates over to the school where you are playing. A hot bus where you have half of your equipment on, sweating, but you could care less. It is about you and your buddies, getting ready to head into battle, on a field that is more like a mall parking lot. But you don’t care.
Further for me, it is beyond special. See when my mother passed away three years ago, my brother showed me a foot locker my mother had, that I didn’t know existed, full of all kinds of things. As I went through her memories, I found a folder, titled ‘Joe.’ I opened it up and inside, was every single article about me playing high school football. Every. Single. Article. Nothing about me in college. Nothing about me working in TV. All high school football. Articles that I had not seen or remembered in 25 plus years. My mother never mentioned it to me. But there it was.
Before every home game at McGavock and on the road, I would spot her first. She took immense pride in me playing high school football. She loved the direction it gave me. She loved the feeling of family it gave me with coaches and friends.
She loved me playing football.
So tonight, around the country and middle Tennessee, there will be a kid, who will run out onto that football field and the first thing he will do, is spot his mom. Then he will buckle up, get his mind right, and go play football.
These kids. These coaches. The parents. The band. The band parents have all been pointing to tonight for about 9 months. And when I hear the drums in the band, for me, it is Christmas in August.
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