The local high school football stadium is close enough to my house that I can hear the crowds cheer from my back yard on Friday nights in the fall.
I can hear the dispassionate voice of the stadium announcer saying that it’s third down and two yards to go for the Leeds Green Wave at the Elmore County 17 yard line.
I have a powerful emotional reaction to high school football. It was a big deal in the town where I went to high school and I was there for every game. The entire community seemed to be there. The stadium was always packed — and we went all the way to the state championship game during my senior year.
It wasn’t just “them” — the team — rather it was “us.”
It felt as though it was all of us, from the students and teachers all the way to the city business owners and civic leaders. Everybody was there. It was a source of pride. We were part of something bigger than just ourselves.
I’m sitting in McDonald’s late on a Friday evening watching high school kids who have just watched Leeds defeat Elmore County 33-27 — and watching them reminds me what it felt like as a 17-year-old to need to belong.