The game is really only an excuse, I think.
Rolling en masse from the parking lot to the other end of the bleachers -- and back again, many times -- is a group of middle school students clearly delighted to be together. The girls have their arms around each other, swaying as they walk. The boys are pushing playfully, bouncing from one friend’s side to another, bopping back up and over while slightly tripping, but never losing footing. Their phones are out, as of course, these instruments are actually surgically attached; we parents just are misinformed in thinking that they are not "necessary" appendages. Their fingers are flying as they text -- to the friend in the other group just a few feet away.
Then comes another group of kids from another side, a slightly smaller group. They, too, have their gadgets, but still call out, "Hey, where is he?" as they attempt to find a missing friend. One of the high school principals has claimed a vantage point to watch the action, and they swirl past him as though he is not even there, so engrossed are they in their socialization.
The cheers roared out from the stands, and the Brattleboro team has finally scored a touchdown in this rather unevenly matched game we are seeing tonight. We arrived a bit late, towards the end of the first quarter, and Brattleboro had already been outscored by at least 28 unanswered points.
But again, the point of the game for most didn’t really seem to be in the winning of the game.
Over in the far corner, the snack bar efficiently greeted all who stopped by, serving up surprisingly good cheeseburgers and french fries. Our supper dilemma resolved itself rather cheaply too ... and although we aren’t sure that this should become a regular option for the family every game night, it has all the makings of becoming a habit. Inside, the staff practiced a finely honed routine that kept lines to a bare minimum. I wonder how many pounds of fries are served at a game?
We meet neighbors and friends, fellow parents and seasoned BUHS supporters, as we roll from spot to another. I talk to one parent whom I haven’t seen since our kids were together in preschool. I catch up with another I saw yesterday. I revel in the sense of community we have here, the commonality of the watching a simple game of football.
We wander a bit more, finally deciding to stand alongside the fence. We admire the deals on the Colonels items the good, volunteering mothers -- both freshmen parents -- are selling. We wonder why there is a dog house on the field? I ask why there are no cheerleaders, but no one seems to know. We watch more points be scored against us, and cheer loudly when Brattleboro fights back. All along, we continue to monitor where our own middle schooler is ... walking that fine line of giving him the freedom he needs at this point in his life and being responsible parents.
Above us, the pep band sounds out. With director Steve Rice taking on the lead, the pep band rouses the audience into some cheering. They use the bass drums and their voices-as well as the instruments. And although our son informed us later that "everybody made a lot of mistakes," it was not so apparent from below.
It brings me back to high school myself, and I find myself remembering and comparing. The town I grew up in, in Illinois, was much smaller -- 1,600 total population, with a high school student body numbering only around 350. Football was a highlight (basketball was king): there was literally nothing else going on in the community except high school sports (or middle school sports). The Friday Night Game was The Event of the week.
It’s not so different here, I think. It’s a coming together. It’s a social opportunity for all those here -- but especially those increasingly social beings, those middle school and high school age young people blossoming out daily into new ideas and relationships.
It’s an American rite of passage.
Revisited now as an adult, I find myself leaving the field, thinking I might even make this a habit ...
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools-now at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment, the Brattleboro Town School Board and the Early Education Services policy council.