Friday night is football night if you live in America and you're in high school. Despite not being much of a sports fan (I could think of a few things I'd rather do more than sit through an interminable baseball game, but most of them involved self-mutilation), I've always loved a good high school football game.
The stakes are so high when you're sixteen with newly minted muscles and the recklessness to devote yourself completely to every single play like it's your last. Everything's more honest, too. The cheerleaders are just the pretty, well-known (if not entirely well-liked) girls, rather than the career types who shower in tanning oil and whose social currency is in hotpants. The band is still comprised of a handful of kids who may or may not turn out to be The Arcade Fire someday, and the crowd truly cares because it's a collection of blood relatives rather than rabid super-fans with masks of specifically chosen face paint.
High school games are not the ones you watch over a cheap schooner of Bud at the Red Room on a Monday night. They're not the ones you buy a ticket months in advance for, either. You're not there out of some odd allegiance to a region or state or coach. You're there to feel the youth and adrenaline and artifice of high school play out at breakneck speed on an astroturf field. You're there because no matter where you live, there's a game happening somewhere every Friday night, and at every single game, the stakes are as high as they'll ever be. And man, you feel it.
As if that weren't enough, Friday night's game was also the homecoming game. I strode across the walkway looking up at the crowd while the crowd faced the field, mesmerized by the pomp and circumstance of the coronation. A red carpet unfurled down the 50 yard line and on it a homecoming princess on her father's arm one-step two-stepped her way to join her fellow Jessica McClintock-clad pretties, the lucky ones, the ones who get to thank God publicly for this amazing opportunity. Thank you so much, I just want to shout out to my besties, Keeley and Marissa, you girls are the best friends I could have ever hoped for and I will love you forever.
Over the loudspeaker another princess gave a shout out to her best guy friends, a list so long I couldn't help but guffaw from the bleachers. In the distance, the opposing cheer team hurled their smallest girl into the black sky and the football teams flanked either side of the field, a coil of unbridled energy about to strike.
In the end, our team lost by six points. A guy on the opposing team broke a leg, a girl with flaxen hair became the Best Girl In School, and everyone else went home to wait it out until the next big game with stakes even higher than the one that just ended. See you next Friday.