In my freshman year, I initially watched football games reluctantly, but soon realized the magnetism of the football season. There are several facets of the experience worth loving.
Now in my senior year, I've found appreciation for the environment: its energetic student section, passionate parent section, and emphatic pep band. And smaller versions of those three to represent the other team, on opposite bleachers. Admittedly, I find contact sports slightly nerve wracking and I don't know much about the technicalities of the game itself, but the Laker football team plays with such obvious gusto that it's difficult to not support them. The spirit of competition is palpable —considering the Lakers' impressive legacy— and seems to sway between players and spectators like an intensifying current throughout the 48 minutes of playing time.
This competitive spirit is evident, inherently visible in the teamwork among our players. But more recently, I came to appreciate that in addition to the excitement of challenge and strategy within the game, football is a consummate example of respect in our school community. I realize that this may sound suspiciously uncomplicated, but I truly believe that respect is underrated.
At last month's civil war game, I stood between the band and the student section, unsuccessfully surveying the misty green Cobb field. The "civil war" game was influential enough to garner packed stands from both Lakeridge and LOHS — even in cold, windy, pitch black night. I'm not well-versed enough to rattle off statistics, but I knew at the time that the two teams were essentially leap-frogging past each other in points. The opposing bands played ferociously and the student section jumped with animation.
Then a mass of jerseys and cleats on the field cleared, and once they'd scattered to their respective sides we saw a Lakeridge player on his back. He appeared to wince in pain and did not move.
Medical personnel ran from either side, forming a dome around the player and surveying his injury. I heard someone describe what they'd seen happen and tried to force the image from my mind. Injuries are common, I understood. But during those ten minutes, the situation felt different, more intimate.
The field grew quiet and all players dropped to one knee. Their helmets rolled on the ground while they wrung their fingers. In the student section, we stayed quiet. We watched people push away the metal gates at the end of the track, and through the open space crept an ambulance, lights swirling. Medical responders opened the doors, pulled out a stretcher, and lifted the frozen player into its metal frame. We watched, silent still, as the player was rolled into the ambulance. He turned his head towards us, smiled weakly, and pointed his finger to the sky. Then the ambulance's doors closed and it rolled off the field. We heard its siren wailing down Country Club Road.
The game resumed like any other, but with a somber tone hanging above the field. The bands resumed their tunes and the spectators screamed with anticipation, but nothing would drown this memory. That two schools could set aside rivalry and ambition to prioritize concern for an individual showed a greater value —one of genuine respect— is unforgettable.
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