By Jim “Pappy” Moore
High School Football is big in East Texas. When I was growing up in Lufkin, our big rivals were Longview, Tyler, Nacogdoches, Texarkana and Marshall. All were District rivals, except Nacogdoches.
East Texans love their high school football and the pageantry it means for students and their families. The 50-70 boys suited up in their football uniforms lead the pack. About half will like play most of the game. The others practice, suit up, cheer, and are ready to play when their number is called. The players run through a large, inflatable helmet in the dominant color the school has for the uniforms. They run from the end zone to mid-field, where they burst through a large banner boosting the team.
The game presentation is a group effort. There are players, coaches, referees, and local media personnel on the field or sidelines. Two dozen cheerleaders urge the team and the faithful fans. The band plays rousing music throughout the game, and takes the field at half-time to entertain with their music and precision marching, led by their drum major and twirlers.
And army of girls decked out in sharp outfits performs as the school’s drill team. The pep squad cheers the team on. Flag and banner bearers fulfill their roles. A mascot wanders the sideline exhorting all. Pre-game activities may include honoring players and their parents. It’s a festival!
This is Friday Night Lights in Autumn for East Texas. Hundreds of students are performing, and hundreds of parents and grandparents are cheering their kids saying with pride “that one’s ours!”
A big screen TV at one end of the field shows the game activity and promotes advertising of mostly local businesses, with proceeds going to select programs beneficial to students. There are Booster Clubs that help.
The referee team usually comes from within an hour’s drive. They do their part, which isn’t always easy. Local media plays their role taking video for TV News and photographs for Newspapers. Concession stands run by parents garner money for good causes.
The games are broadcast by locals via You Tube so that people who cannot attend or choose not to attend the game can still participate by watching the festivities.
There will be 10 games in the regular season – 5 at home and 5 away, with additional games should the team make the playoffs. There is a great deal more going into Friday Night Football than the team’s play. It is a community event.
Win or Lose, the participants and supporters treasure the football season, running from late August to early November. It is heart-warming to hear the same school song played and sung in 2023 and it was in the 1960s. This school and community spirit transcends time. It traverses decades from black and white TV to full color videos on everyone’s phone or laptop.
These traditions and celebrations bind together generations: Boomers. Gen-Xers. Millennials. Gen-Zers. Such ties are important to the fabric and concept of community. They connect people from all walks of life, from all races, from all backgrounds. From early rock and roll, to grunge rock, to hip-hop, Friday Night Lights endures. From old time Country and Western to the newer version, it endures.
Hold on to these traditions and activities. They bring together four generations. They annually bond children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Treasure them.
Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.