We arrived at the massive Carpenter Stadium grandstand Friday night when my wife turned to me and asked, “Where should we sit?”
The guy who worked in a newspaper Sports department for 33 years had no idea.
My first thought was the press box, which is always a dry spot with rain clouds overhead. But being off the job and attending a high school football game as a fan for the first time since 1983 had me flummoxed.
“Uh, how about there?” I pointed, knowing only I wanted to stay out of the way of the East High student section.
I covered more than 100 high school football games for The Eagle, then for the last 17 years sat in the office on Friday nights and edited stories from games and collected score after score, game stats after game stats. I knew all about area high school football without personally seeing a kickoff.
But now, in this new role as the paper’s community engagement editor, I’m able to get out and see games – and more importantly to watch the dance team, which includes a freshman named Seminoff. (I never knew until now the importance of a dance team to a school’s well-being.)
Along with Grandma Shirley, we sat 10 rows up and I began fidgeting, not sure how to act. I kept one eye on our daughter and the other eye on adults, trying to learn how to be a high school parent and not a grizzled sportswriter.
Sprinkles began just before the national anthem. My wife, who admits to melting in the rain, asked me to get our umbrellas from the car. A security guard told me there was no re-entry to the stadium without paying a second time.
That wasn’t a rule for a sportswriter with a media pass. This fan stuff’s harder than it looks.
So six more bucks or we get a little wet? Hmm, a little water never hurt anyone – until we remembered that Grandma Shirley gets in free as a senior citizen. She kindly retrieved the umbrellas as I wedged my cheapness into my back pocket.
With umbrellas overhead, Friday night was full of odd, out-of-my-skin moments.
▪ When the East kick returner nearly broke free for a touchdown, I stood up and clapped. Actually stood up. Sportswriters never stand up. It’s rule No. 2 in the handbook: Don’t get excited. (Rule No. 1? Your shirt should never match either team’s colors, lest you get looks from the other side.)
▪ The flawless halftime performances from the dance team and marching band made me realize I never watched halftime shows closely as a reporter. Too busy adding up halftime stats or chatting with a familiar face in the press box. These kids are talented.
▪ Student sections are masses of teenage wonderfulness. The combination of camaraderie, awkwardness and teen spirit should be bottled up and stored so scientists can make clean energy out of it.
“Our” Blue Aces lost to Garden City 24-0. Watching Katie dance and cheer for the first time will be a lasting memory – as will her hair becoming a mix of brown spaghetti after the rain did its work on it.
I’ll also remember the first night becoming members of a high school community – football parents, band parents, cheer parents, dance parents and folks who’ve followed their Blue Aces for years.
This will be a fun trip, and I won’t have to write about it or edit or a story about it afterward. The imaginary sportswriter’s hat is off.
Did I mention I kept statistics during Friday’s game? Yeah, OK, habits are hard to break. Give me some time.