I haven’t always been like this.
I mean, some parts of me — the foul mouth, the questionable hygiene and the low moral standards — have always been like this. But the one thing that probably defines my existence the most — my nearly uncontrollable passion for high school football — hasn’t always been like this.
Don’t get me wrong; I went to high school football games at Troy Memorial Stadium every week growing up. Rarely, however, did I actually pay attention to what was happening on the field.
In elementary school, I spent most of the football game running around with my friends, finding new and inventive ways to annoy people who were actually trying to watch the game (Note to parents: Please don’t let your children do this. It was obnoxious when I did it then and it’s even more obnoxious when your children do it).
When I got to junior high school, I still didn’t watch the games — I spent most of my time in the stands, trying to talk to girls. Most of the girls at the games spent their Friday nights doing their level best to avoid speaking to me, however. I did eventually get the hint and moved on from that.
My first two years of high school, I didn’t go to a whole lot of high school football games … mostly because I couldn’t drive. Sure, I could have hitched a ride with my parents, but that was right around the age when most kids have come to the conclusion their parents are the most embarrassing people on the planet and being seen in public with them is a form of social suicide.
(Looking back, that’s pretty funny, given the fact I had zero social status in high school. Being seen at a football game with my parents probably would have raised my standing in the high school hierarchy … I mean, it really couldn’t have gotten any worse. My daughter is only in the seventh grade and already come to the conclusion I’m the most embarrassing person in the world — the difference is, she’s actually right).
In any event, by the time my junior year in high school rolled around, I was old enough to drive. This didn’t matter, however, as my parents never trusted me to use their car. My friends, however, did drive and had parents who trusted them to use their cars. And finally, for the first time in my life, I was able to go to football games without my parents.
And that’s when I fell in love.
I fell in love with all of that. The action on the field. The chance to see my classmates actually get playing time. The band playing in the stands. The cool autumn nights. The cheerleaders swaying in rhythmic cadence. The sounds of rabid fans in full throat. The emotional whipsaws that came with winning and losing. The pain and the passion.
Until I was married and started having children many years later, I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything as much as I love high school football. Sure, I’d always watched college and professional football on television — but it was never quite the same. Professional football, especially, is so sterile — it’s as if Madison Avenue has sucked out all of the emotion and boxed it up for mass consumption.
College football is absolutely glorious — but it was never my first love. I wouldn’t fall in love with college football until several years after I had found the glory that is high school football.
I figure that since I started attending high school football games on a regular basis my junior year, I’ve probably seen somewhere around 300 football games. To this day, I have yet to go tired of watching high school football on Friday nights. Sure, it’s part of my job — but even if it weren’t, I have no doubts where I’d be every Friday night from late August until late October.
It’s become a part of who I am. High school football has burrowed it’s way into my soul and I don’t see it leaving any time soon. Tomorrow brings a new season for all of us — and the wait during the offseason has been nothing short of agonizing.
I haven’t always been like this — but I think this is how I always shall be.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong