I am always surprised when evidence of true Texas religion is brought to the center of my mind. Even though I grew up in a small Texas town, a few blocks from the high school (which I attended all four years), I am still surprised that high school football has such an impact on a community. Especially this community that can actually boast of other attractions: a 4-year state university (whose football team has its own impressive record), a bowling alley and a movie theatre, a Chili's and if those don't suit, Fort Worth looms only an hour away.
But this town has a mind of its own when it comes to football. Last year, I saw little girls at Lily's preschool dressed up on game days in miniature cheerleading uniforms, complete with big bow hair. Never, in all my years of growing up in small town Texas, did I ever see anything like that. Football is such a big deal here that I wondered if I was ruining my children's lives by not dressing them up like cheerleaders and having them patrol the sidelines on Friday nights. I've been told by those in the know (okay, it was my hairdresser) that I should be thankful that I don't have boys. The pressure to play football for Mudville High School starts in 4th grade.
Earlier this season, Brian and I actually took the girls to the Hamburger Scrimmage. It cost us $1 to get in and $5 each for some very poor hamburgers and fixin's. And everyone was there. I mean everyone, including the surgeon who did Brian's hernia repair. Maybe that's not such a strange thing. I guess I just didn't expect to see him there. I figured he'd be at home on a Friday night doing "surgeony" things. But there he was...wearing his Bumblebee hat and eating his overpriced, burnt burger and off-brand Oreos. As for us, once "play" actually started, we stayed about 20 minutes. I'm not a football fan in the first place, but watching a scrimmage where the coaches were on the field on every play, there was no score and and no band, well, that was just mind-numbing. Not to mention the other part of me that was numb from the aluminum bleachers.
Everything else aside, the culmination of my disbelief was brought to its peak this week. Last Tuesday, people lined up outside the high school for hours to buy tickets for Friday night's football game. One of the men who successfully purchased his 3 tickets said he's been attending Bumblebee games since 1966! On Friday, the Mudville Gazette reported the Athletic Secretary's "stunned" reaction to having nearly 500 tickets remaining. It seems that those 100 people who waited five hours outside the school only purchased 300 tickets. There was a reason for this: the powers that be put a limit on the tickets at 3 per customer. But all was not lost...tickets would be sold at Thursday's JV game as well. Thank goodness.
I am not completely heartless; I will concede that the tickets were for the district championship game and the Mudville Bumblebees are undefeated, but still...high school football?
Well, they were undefeated.
There was no joy in Mudville after about 10:15pm, Friday night. The Mudville Bumblebees lost their quest for the District Championship in overtime, 31-28. All is not lost, however. They are still have a playoff seat and will be trying to go the distance again this year.
The September issue of Texas Monthly had an article touting the top twenty Texas high school football programs of all time. Schools were assigned ten points for each championship and five points for being a runner-up. To reward consistency over the years, three points were awarded for each district title using overall wins as a tiebreaker. This formula yielded the top twenty teams and helped ensure that a small program had just as much of a chance as a big one, since schools play in classes that are based on enrollment.
Weighing in at Number 19 of the top 20 programs of all time.....the Mudville Bumblebees! Texas Monthly had this to say about them:
Known as the state's most prolific quarterback factory, [Mudville] has produced nine top recruits for Division I-A college programs since 1989 (including Jevan Snead, who bolted from the University of Texas last year to play for Ole Miss). Much of the credit for this talent goes to former head coach Art Briles, who led the [Bumblebees] to all four of their state titles. The best known quarterback of the crop, Kevin Kolb, followed Briles to the University of Houston, where he started for four straight years. He was also the thirty-sixth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, taken by the Philadelphia Eagles.
This year's star quarterback has already verbally agreed to play at Oklahoma State University and become a Poke. I have been told, by a very dear friend and former alumna, that I am not allowed to call them the Slow Pokes.
I know a guy who transferred his son to Mudville High School so that he would have an opportunity to play for this team. I actually laughed out loud when he told me this. That was definitely the wrong response. He assured me that this football program was top in the state and even if I hadn't heard of it, he was sure that Brian had. I told him that Brian and I both come from 5A schools and that I would guarantee Brian hadn't heard of this Podunk 2A group. That was an even worse thing to say...Mudville is, ahem, a 4A school. Who knew? I am laughing to myself right now recalling this very serious conversation. This family has been nurturing this child's athletic abilities, apparently since Day One. I think they believe that if their son plays for Mudville, he might have a chance to go all the way.....all the way to the Cowboys. And we're not talking about the Slow Pokes.
And then I really have to laugh. Because there is this very wicked part of me that wants to stand up wherever I see men gathered...especially when the Cowboys are playing...and say really, really loud: The Cowboys Suck. Just to see what would happen.