Saturday, November 10, 2007

True Texas Religion

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 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.


Anonymous said...

G, this post cracks me up. My daddy is a retired football coach, so I spent every Friday night of my growing up years at a football stadium. My hometown was a "football town" in the sense that they cheered the team when it was winning and cussed the coaches when they were losing.

I spent several years on the sidelines as a sports writer and photographer with football being my favorite to write about for obvious reasons.

As a side note, I was once tackled by a player and crunched into a fence (don't worry, only my pride was hurt)and it was all recorded by a news camera and played that night on "Sports Extra." My friends LOVED it.

I guess you could say that football is in my blood.

And yet I have never dressed my child up in a cheerleader costume or enrolled her in a cheerleading class. I've never even taken the girls to a football game come to think of it. They do love football because we watch it together as a family on Sunday evenings (when it's convenient). They like to watch it with my Daddy, too.

I guess my point is that I don't really have a point. ;) Some towns really get into it, I guess. Some parents really get into it. I guess if anyone would have football in their bones, it would be me...but it's one of those things that I enjoy but don't live and die by. My interest has waned over the years but I do still enjoy it.

You can tell me the Cowboys suck, and I probably won't even notice -- definitely will not care. ;)

On the other hand, I think it's cool to have something in your town to take pride in. Something to give your town a sense of place, something to give you a sense of distinction in your town. Sure it can get extreme, but I think it's pretty cool that Mudville was in the Top 20.

The pressure on the young boys? Not so there's good and bad.

I wonder they still do the ribbons? When I was growing up, the high school cheerleaders sold ribbons that you pinned to your shirt that would say things like, "Tigers Whip the Panthers!"

I always thought I was the THANG because my Daddy would get me ribbons even when I was in elementary school.

I will say this...there is nothing like a cool, crisp November Friday night, late 4th quarter, 8 seconds left in the game, 28-31 and your team scores an interception and runs it back for a touchdown, grabbing the win for your team. Now that's exhiliration! May I say it's even better when your Daddy is the coach?

Sweet memories...


Anonymous said...

One more thing. I just realized something: I've never purchased tickets for a high school football game. Of all the hundreds and hundreds of games I've been to over the years, either my Daddy was the coach and we were provided with tickets or I had a press pass.

I was re-reading your post because I thought it was so cute...and I recognized for the second time that something seemed so foreign on the paragraph about the ticket sales. And then it hit me: I've never bought tickets.

No wonder I don't do high school football. I don't want to buy tickets.

Well, that and I don't do preschoolers in cheerleader outfits.

Call me a mean mama, but my child would actually have to *make* the cheerleading squad to actually wear a cheerleading outfit — and even then, well...have you looked at cheerleader outfits lately?


Anonymous said...

I think its great for a community to supports its programs but sometimes it seems like fanatacism (sp?).
You're not the only one that wants to yell. I don't even really think much about the Cowboy's suckin'. I just want to cause a ruckus.