"Eagles to the Dome, or go home."
That was the first football chant I learned. It was for the Eisenhower Eagles, located in Acres Homes, a small inner-city community in Houston.
The chant gave the high school a sense of pride. The goal was to play a state championship game in the Astrodome.
Its last state title game, in 1999, was in Austin at the University of Texas' stadium, and now that the Astrodome is gone, the chant is outdated.
But it still means something to the community, and it's something I'll probably remember forever.
Before seeing my first Kansas football game Thursday, Texas football is the only brand of high school football I've known. It is big, fast and a part of the culture. It would be a lie to say all Texas football is good football, but the memories, traditions, band performances and chants have a tendency of embedding themselves in the deepest parts of the brain.
There's a small town called Katy just outside of Houston that has won five state titles since 2000, making it to the big game seven out of those 10 years. There are about 75 largest-class schools in the Houston area alone, so this is no easy feat. Katy's stadium seats about 10,000; getting there on a game day will usually take about an hour for three miles inside the city limits. The frustration of game day soon transcends into football bliss. The town shuts down. The stadium fills past capacity and it shows as people rush for seats on the lawn behind the south field goal posts — most of them wearing Katy red and white. Opposing fans seldom find good seats.
Booster club members drive a mini train replica with a fully functional — totally not a replica — train horn that pierces the roar of the crowd after each Katy touchdown. The show doesn't start until the Katy Tigers do their pre-game ritual of tossing the lightest player at least 15 feet in the air and catching him in a sea of red and white uniforms. It looks amazing.
Now I have the opportunity to experience some new traditions. The chance to weigh and compare two different brands of high school football is exciting. I have an opportunity to see if everything is really bigger and better in Texas or if good football is just good football.
I have a feeling if a good athlete puts on a helmet and pads, no matter where he's from, he can inspire a team and ignite a crowd. I have a feeling that people in Smith Center just might have the same amount of pride in their team as the fans from Katy.
The opportunity to see if the Hutchinson fans paint themselves like the Pearland (Texas) fans are known for is intriguing.
Then there are the chants. What chant will I hear that sticks with me for a lifetime?