Football is back...kind of
By Ken DeLaat
There was a crispness to the air under a clear late summer sky creating a perfect scenario for high school football. For a few moments walking into the Fremont Athletic Field it seemed like any other year…
But it wasn’t.
It’s not just another year. It is the year of the Pandemic.
The first thing you notice is the stands.
If you’re somehow unacquainted with small town high school football games (and if so shamefully I might add) Friday Night Lights is the best show in town bar none. It has drama, comedy and adventure and brings out a sea of emotions from disappointment to delight. There are triumphs and tragedies played out on the field and side stories abound
Beyond the game is the social aspect. Not just the friends one might meet up with and sit together with , but also running into all the others from the area who gather for 4 or 5 nights a year in the autumn chill to watch the progeny of the community take the field.
And they pack those bleachers and line the fences on game night.
But not this year.
The stands looked as sparse as those found at Tiger games in Comerica Park the past couple of seasons.
People still seemed to chat it up a bit in small groups but the majority were socially distanced due, primarily I imagine, to the wealth of opportunities for nabbing a good seat.
And it’s pretty much all parents. No alumni, no aunts, uncles, or grandparents and none of the random townspeople who have no kids in the games but have been coming to them for years.
And the oddest thing about the stands? No young people. No student section stuffed like sardines to root on their team, respond to the cheerleaders, and chant various phrases in unison when situations on the field call for such action.
Just, as I said, mostly parents.
But at least no cardboard cutouts
Then there was the National Anthem. When walking in I failed to notice the absence of those snappily attired tune troops, each armed with their musical devices and prepared to create that magical marching band sound.
But when Doug Harmon slapped on a taped version of the Star Spangled Banner it hit me.
And no halftime show .
No concessions (sob!)
My fall Fridays have become evenings of epicurean indulgence. Outside of an overzealous affection for dark chocolate my diet is relatively healthy due to sharing meals with LSC Lil who generally eschews meat..
Concession stands rarely have salads or carrot sticks and are generally light on vegetarian fare. However, it’s been my experience that they always, and I mean always, have hot dogs.
Sometimes there’s pizza (pepperoni not veggie) and nachos and other delights but knocking down a couple of dogs at halftime (mustard only of course unless diced onions make an appearance) generally does it for me, particularly when accompanied by the musical performance of the marching band.
Friday, faced with the prospect of a foodless Fremont Field, I had an early dinner with Lil.
We had salads.
Then there was the relative quiet. Because of the sparse crowd one could almost hear bench conversations between coaches and players and any loud outburst echoed through the facility. It gave the more, uh, vocal of the parental fans clear access to the ears of the zebras.
And of course, the masks. Nearly all kept them on in the stands and the players and coaches truly seemed to do their best to maintain masking despite times when they were disheveled by the action on the field or the heat of emotion.
Kudos to Fremont Schools. This was no easy task. It meant plunging into unknown territory accompanied by a slew of requirements needed to be met in order to have this happen and from my perspective they did it well.
It’s a different type of season to be sure but in so many ways it’s a different world.
And like with other parts of our lives adjustments have been made. We may not like them, we may not believe they are necessary, but the only thing that mattered Friday night seemed to be that two talented teams could take the field and play a game of football.
Just like any other year.
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