If fall weekends have you thinking about football games of autumns past, indulge your nostalgic impulses and take your family to an area high-school football contest.
Chances are you have mixed feelings about that suggestion. You might like the idea of seeing a game and the fanfare that accompanies it. On the other hand, you're wondering if you really want to subject yourself and your family to a stadium crawling with a couple thousand members of the teen-aged species.
Maybe you are afraid you'll feel awkward and old.
Maybe you are worried that the teen-agers will consider you an intruder.
Maybe you are concerned that you won't be getting your money's worth of competition and pageantry.
Let's put each of those fears to rest.
You'll find as you enter the high-school football stadium that a surprising percentage of the crowd consists of adults and families. These are people who have been enjoying high-school football regularly on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons for years. Sit near them for your personal comfort.
You'll soon find that teen-agers won't consider you an intruder -- in fact, they probably won't notice you at all. The student body attending high-school games generally breaks down into two groups:
Game Watchers -- These are the shriekers, throwers of confetti, the folks who consider every play a life-or death matter and cheer or groan accordingly.
Wanderers -- The "sideline patrol," the people who are more interested in social contact than football contact.
But the most unfounded fear is that you might not get your money's worth at a high-school game. They have everything you're familiar with in football games, and for only $1 to $3 a person.
The high-school football world has become a microcosm of the pro world and knowing what to look for is part of enjoying the show:
Players -- Interesting to watch on the field and on the bench. During the game they block and tackle, pass and punt like miniature (some not-so-miniature) pros. You might spot the neighbor's kid who used to be the community weakling bowling people over and racing into the end zone.
Off the field, some players consult intently about the game while others flash smiles at friends in the crowd.
Coaches -- In slick windbreakers sporting team colors and caps with the school's emblem. The coaches on the sidelines communicate via walkie-talkies to the coaches observing from the press box and relay plays onto the field through substitute players or sophisticated signals. Coaches clutch clipboards with information from scouting reports and from analyzing game films.
Pageantry -- The cheerleaders, marching bands, drill teams, and pep fans who add to the sight and sounds that make football an event rather than just a game. Competition among these groups is seen from school to school as they strive to provide that intangible, cherished edge: school spirit.
And if you can reach way back into your past to recall just a flicker of what school spirit feels like, you can enjoy a high-school football game.