Drama. Lots of drama this week.
Guys love to claim that they don’t want drama, but when you read headlines in sports, it’s hard to imagine how some of these professional athletes’ lifestyles could be any more dramatic. Of course, the sensational headlines make up a very small proportion of the real stories and actual character of professional athletes, yet these ne’er-do-wells always find the center of attention. Sports is big entertainment. “Interesting” athletes make for interesting television.
It makes me nostalgic for the last time I can remember the sport being about pure fun: high school football. It was the most fun any of us ever had.
In Episode 7, Charles and Spencer comment on high school football while reflecting upon the death of a former teammate. Even with the recruiting circus that exists today as early as ninth grade, the spotlight isn’t nearly as bright. There is just something pure about high school football. Playing with guys you’ve known since you first started walking creates a brotherhood like no other. Your family, friends and community in the stands. Playing for a state championship or for local bragging rights. It was pure fun. That’s how it was for me, anyway, but I suspect guys all across the country who put on a helmet in high school can relate. It still gives you goosebumps.
Your high school team is the first sort of brand loyalty that you become attached to. I played in Memphis, Tenn., so when I came to the University of Miami, no one in the locker room had heard of my team (even though we’d won two state championships). So we’d all defend our high schools. It’s an old game that guys play in the locker room. Being in Miami, the biggest arguments in our locker room came from local Florida high school rivalries. South Florida is the premier high school talent bed in the country. Nowhere else can you walk from high school to high school and pick out 10-15 legitimate D-1 prospects. Most of the top talent from those schools ended up in the same locker room at Miami.
The arguments were so heated. I can remember coaches coming into the locker room, scared there was a brawl going on, just astonished to see the Northwestern kids arguing with the Booker T kids, or the guys from Norland getting into it with the guys from Central. Blood was never drawn, but you wouldn’t know the difference by how intense it got in our locker room.
There is just something about high school football. I can remember when I was in fifth grade coming to our high school games dreaming of being able to wear the same uniform. Star athletes find their origins in high school sports. Our middle school was attached to the high school, and I can remember seeing the starting quarterback walking on campus. He had just been featured in the local paper, and as a seventh grader I was star-struck. He had to be seven feet tall, if my memory serves me right.
While the top tier of athletes goes on to play college, some of the best players were the guys who were too slow or too small to continue playing. But they were legends of high school football nonetheless. We had a nose guard who was maybe 5-foot-10, 210 lbs, and he was an absolute werewolf when he put the pads on. To me, he was just as hard to block as some of the all-conference guys who were getting D-1 scholarships.
Between the “Friday night lights” and the camaraderie, there really is nothing like high school football. And it was fun seeing Spencer and Charles reminisce, as it compelled me to think about my own time in high school. In a show — and real life sport — that is often caught up in money, scandal and infidelity, it’s nice to catch a little nostalgia for what football was before the lights got too bright.