MONTGOMERY — A cheerleader waved up into the stands, a receiver smiled behind his facemask as he adjusted his gaudy gloves, and popcorn spilled out over the bleachers.
It was a familiar mess. It was another imperfect parade.
Football was back again — still as essential as ever.
Glenwood School started our area’s football fall last Saturday in Cramton Bowl, rolling over a Brookwood team from Thomasville, Ga., as parents watched proud and classmates in orange shouted and smiled — and thank goodness for it.
One game, a lot like this one, was canceled last week. Wash away all those sights and sounds, and imagine an empty stadium instead. Over in Texas, over where I was before I came back to the O-A News, the Metroplex school district behind Plano High School suddenly canceled a home game set for September with El Paso’s Eastwood High School, all less than two weeks after the tragic mass shooting in El Paso killed 22 people and left 25 injured.
It was a chance to heal, however small, lost to two communities. The man charged with the slayings was a Plano High graduate. The school district’s reasoning left the public wanting. Local police said there was no credible threat made to the event, according to the Dallas Morning News, but the school district wanted to give up the game in caution.
Football isn’t perfect. I won’t say that. The safety concerns are real, and changes must be made, well beyond getting rid of the kickoffs. The high school game needs to make a huge leap forward into the forefront of improved protocols. Consenting adults in the NFL have every right to play in ways detrimental to their health, just like they have the right to smoke cigarettes. The kids should be better protected.
But football has to play on — just like it had to play on in Texas.
After outcry, cooler heads have put the game back on.
Per the El Paso Times, Eastwood head coach Julio Lopez said: “I think things like football, high school athletics, normal day-to-day activities that we all do, are an important step in the healing process.”
Football should always play its part in that — no matter how it’s changing or how it’ll look in the future.
Friday night, hundreds more high school football games were kicked off across the state as the season opened in earnest. Cheerleaders put on matching uniforms, making memories that’ll last a lifetime. Players poured their sweat over the field and saw months of hard work finally pay off. Communities came together, a part of a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Every piece of it is important. Even up in the stands, there were some kids like the one I was, planning a bonfire and chasing a feeling from Panama City Beach like the heartbeat of Americana depends on it.
It’s all a small part of something bigger.
In Cramton Bowl, Glenwood’s players celebrated after their win — their first big victory of the season — climbing into the stands to find their loved ones. A burly offensive linemen climbed steps past a group of youngsters holding hands out for high-fives. “Good game,” they told him. “Thank you,” he answered right back, just as his coaches had told him, as a representative of his school.
Senior defensive lineman Allandis Boyd followed behind, on his way to hugging a girl, holding a hand out to high-five theirs.
“Y’all boys grow up to play football,” he told them.
Let’s hope they do.