Sam Burnham, Curator
On Friday nights in the fall, high school football teams take center stage across The South. Like anything else, the big, the successful, the wealthy are the best known examples. Valdosta, Parkview, Buford. Large schools fill big stadiums every week. There’s an atmosphere that rivals the college game.
But I’d like to turn your attention to some smaller schools. There’s something about small communities that roll up the sidewalks early on Friday because the local team is taking the field. If you’ve never been to a small town high school football game, you’re missing out. The crowds both rival and resemble those at local churches on Sunday morning...because they’re usually the same people. The game is usually the biggest thing in town on a given week. It’s a social event, the place to be.
This fact has always been in my mind but it hit me hard this past Friday night. It was homecoming in Trion, Georgia. This town in northern Chattooga County has struggled against COVID-19 and a closing cotton mill. 2020 has not been kind. Trion Bulldog Football offers a distraction from bad news. The team has done ok this year but not as good as in recent years. They need a strong finish and maybe a little help to extend their season.
The visitors were from Armuchee High, some 20 miles down the highway. The Indians have picked up a couple of wins this year, better than in recent years but still struggling with a losing record. Barring a miracle, there won’t be a playoff appearance this year. What’s left of the regular season is all these kids get.
When you consider all of the game experience, teams, cheerleaders, marching bands, fans, so much of this season has been a disappointment. Games have been canceled. Many games have omitted the bands to limit crowd sizes. A lot of kids have put in a lot of hard work and practice for very little of the reward of demonstrating their craft. As a dad, it’s heartbreaking.
Last Friday was a full experience. Both schools had their teams, cheer squads, and marching bands in attendance. The homecoming court was presented. As the season’s end draws nigh, opportunities are becoming fewer. The pain stings a little sharper. But for one night, things were a little more normal.
Both sets of stands held healthy crowds. Both schools, and therefore both communities, were well represented. It was fueled by pride in our kids, in our schools, in our towns. It was seizing a chance to have the full experience. In a year like 2020 you don’t know that you’ll have that chance again, schedule or no schedule. We made the most of it.
In this season there’s a lesson. We’ve learned the importance of the moment. We’ve learned to appreciate each time our kids take the field. We are a little more aware that this time is fleeting.
As a dad, I hope next year is back to normal.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire