Friday Night Lights and the Memories Therein
(10/2012) Autumn is a season renowned for many things: the steaming plates of food that clutter a table during Thanksgiving Day, the garish costumes of young kids as they parade up and down neighborhoods in an endless quest for sweets. The shortening of days and the lengthening of evenings as the world braces itself for the coming cold. For many,
autumn is a season for rebirth and most importantly remembrance.
When I think back on my experiences with autumn my mind immediately turns to the Friday nights that were tantamount to sacred rituals for my small town: high school football games. There was something magical about those Friday evenings when the lights on good old Flaherty field would blare to light and beckon to people from all over the area to come
and enjoy an evening of excitement, activity and rivalry. I fondly remember donning my hoodie and jeans for the first time in 365 days and climbing into a car with my friends to take the field up on its invitation. In many ways those games and that small stadium were a reflection of the kind of lives that people in town led and the way that all of us were connected.
There were the old diehards men who had lived in town for years sometimes decades and perhaps spent time on that field themselves duking it out with their peers when they had energy to spare and strength to use. They would crowd the yellow wire that portioned the sidelines so they could be closest to the game. They would be placing bets about what kind
of play would be called next or where the referee was from while they sipped cups of overpriced concession-stand coffee. Then there were the parents who came to the games to support their children. They would have one day were they could gather and spend time socializing with friends who were equally busy raising rambunctious high school students. Any time you looked up into
the stands you were almost guaranteed to find a pair of women that had known each other since they met in elementary school car pool or PTA. Or perhaps, if you spared a glimpse, you would see to hard-working fathers exchanging a hearty handshake or joke with one another as they watched the game. No matter where you looked it was a safe bet that you could find evidence of a
thriving and interconnected group of people, shedding their daily roles and finding time to simply be with one another.
Of course, you had the children themselves. Freshman boys and girls freely roamed the worn gravel path around Flaherty field talking and laughing with one another as they snuck a wayward look toward a particular crush. For those first year students those Friday nights were a sort of social proving ground. It was a time where every person they knew or
could hope to know was in one place. It was during those games that they began to grow both as members of that town and as human beings.
Following these starry-eyed youths were the Sophomores. By this time in their high school careers they had gotten used to the great social gathering that was the Friday night football game and they had begun to navigate both the field and the treacherous waters of adolescence with a bit more ease. They roamed far less than their younger counterparts
instead finding sections of the field or bleachers where they could sit with the friends they had made in their first year and talk amongst themselves. I fondly recall an air of anticipation among those groups. Every kid there was secretly anxious about what the coming years of high school would bring. They were on the cusp of becoming upper classman and for one reason or
another could not wait for the chance to be as wise and experienced as they perceived their older counterparts to be.
Those aforementioned counter parts always crowded the far edge of the field near the scoreboards. They wore letterman jackets and laughed, at ease with themselves and with the world around them. Every person there was beginning to loathe the long dragging days of small town existence and longed for the challenges of college and the chance to grow up
and accept the responsibilities of adults. The sense of longing for growth that the sophomoreís displayed had been replaced instead with a desire to leave and start a new life with a fresh start: a sort of cosmic do-over where they could become someone completely new. Those night games were fast becoming a memory and for many those nights when man collided with man in a quest
for victory signaled the end of an era and the start of something completely different.
There was a special group who made infrequent appearances at these games. I could always pick them out of a crowd by the massive horde of students that seemed to swarm them wherever they went. They were the recently graduated, those who had returned home from the mythical world of college and migrated to the staple of small-town living that those games
were. Some were legends in the eyes of the students: they had been record breakers, team captains, or presidents of the class in the past and now they had moved on to new worlds and fresh experiences. Some were the old friends of current students and others were siblings but all of them were greatly missed. I myself used to run to my friends who had left the school eager to
catch up on their life but also eager to see what they had learned now that they had moved on to new horizons.
I bring this up because I am now a member of that mysterious group. Having been out of high school for two years now, I am beginning to fade away in the memories of those who still walk the halls of Delone Catholic High School. In another two years not a single student will remember my name or know who I was. The funny pranks I pulled, my embarrassing
moments, even my first romances will all be consigned to some forgotten corner of memory. Itís a bittersweet moment for me as I think back on those autumn nights of yesteryear and a moment that makes me feel a lot older then I am. I realize that some of the memories that I hold dearest are quickly becoming just that. Despite the amount of distance between me and those earnest
Friday nights I can still say with pride that when I think of autumn I think of: Flaherty field, good football games and a community coming together; experiencing life in its many stages. The next time you go, appreciate every second those spotlights shine on you, they shine for only a moment but what a moment it is.
Iím Kyle Ott, wonít you sit and read for a while?
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