The arrival of football season always manages to take me back in time. I remember Friday as the best day of the week at my high school alma mater in Northwestern Ohio.
Our football team was named the Yellow Jackets, and they were renowned for their nasty sting. Every year they made bigger, supposedly meaner and tougher teams eat dirt (literally).
The team often was in the running for a championship and, therefore, the weekly Friday pep rally was highly anticipated.
This was a school and a town that ate, breathed and slept football, so it was no surprise that the rallies were well attended. It was here that all our heroes were present and could be appropriately idolized, if not deified.
The rally would usually start with the cheerleaders doing simple, uncomplicated routines (no budding gymnasts back then). Once the crowd was fully engaged, the band would break out with the fight song, which will be in my mind, I fear, until the end.
"Go Yellow Ja-a-a-ck-ets, fight for victory-y-y-y, with your colors flying, we will cheer you all the way, rah-rah-rah!!"
OK, that's enough. If it was a really big game, the band would be accompanied by the choir, blue robes and all. The coach would then address us and give his forecast for the upcoming game, which was then followed by what we were all waiting for — the introduction of the team!
A pep rally's purpose is to encourage school spirit, but we needed no such encouragement. As each player's name was announced, the students would respond with deafening applause, catcalls and foot stomping. Finally, we would adjourn, rush home and prepare for the big night ahead.
After the game, played on that Friday night, we would all meet at the "Bee Hive," so named because of our Yellow Jacket moniker. The Hive was in a venerable old building that was suspected of one day falling down and was probably a fire hazard, although it still managed to retain a certain tired elegance.
I remember there was a big wooden staircase that led to a dance floor above. As we ascended the stairs, we were greeted by Mrs. Piez, our long-suffering chaperone.
Once admitted, we eagerly awaited the arrival of our (usually triumphant) football team.
Just before they appeared, through the strange workings of a collective sixth sense, everyone would suddenly go silent. The air would be electric with anticipation and, after a few hushed minutes, the team would slowly file in and we would all burst into cheers.
One wonders if the players ever again in their lifetimes received such adulation as they did at the pep rallies and those Bee Hive gatherings. Probably not, and maybe that's why there are so many disillusioned and disappointed aging football stars out there.
Anyway, after that happy moment, the rest of us should have just gone home.
There were pool tables in the Hive, and that was a good thing, because none of us were dancing. We were supposed to be, there was music being piped in to the dilapidated hi-fi system for that purpose.
The thing is, we were awkward, shy teenagers who were afraid to show "our moves" in public. Or, more likely, to show that we had no moves.
The Bee Hive experience was actually a weekly exercise in bone-jarring boredom, unless, of course, you were the girlfriend of a football player, which most of us were not (I talked to one of those girlfriends recently and she verified that what I suspected was true — she always had a great time.)
Left to our own devices, my friends and I settled down to play pool, a lot of pool. We also talked a lot of gossip, and finally, eventually, gave up and went home. However, with the tenacity and optimism only teenagers have, we continued to endure the Hive experience to the end of our senior years.
I guess we thought one of those football players eventually would ask us to dance. Even though that didn't happen, it wasn't entirely a lost cause. They don't call me "Minnesota Fats" for nothing.
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