Yes, it’s that time of year again! Not only does every product in the world economy suffer from widespread pumpkin spice contamination, but also entire nacho-crazed communities across America have succumbed to the yearly epidemic of Friday night high school football mania.
In East Texas, these events would rival the popularity of a free Beyoncé concert at which each fan receives an after-party invitation to drink Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappuccinos with the British Royal Family. It was into the frenzied atmosphere of “Friday night lights” that I found myself thrust recently, as I sat waiting to see my eldest and most expensive daughter perform with her high school dance drill team during halftime.
I have a checkered history with Friday night football games. As a youth, my initial experience primarily involved wandering around under the stands looking for lost change and watching more pubescent people than I make out (and I wondered why I couldn’t get a girlfriend). I eventually tripped over puberty myself, grew a lavish mullet, joined the marching band and played the bass drum — the coloring book of band instruments. And let me tell you, nothing attracted teenage girls like parading around harnessed to a massive barrel that made me look like I was in the third trimester of a septuplet pregnancy. The most excitement I ever experienced playing the bass drum at a game was when the fuzzy end of my mallet came off in mid-beat, flew up into the stands and ruined a fan’s heavily Aqua-Netted 1980s hairdo.
I’m also ashamed to admit that despite a brief stint playing junior high football, I don’t really know much about the game. My primary concern at the time was trying to arrange all of the protective football pads, cups, gussets and straps in and around my various appendages without injuring myself in the locker room. And I still can’t tell the difference between a fullback, halfback, running back, cornerback, tailback, fatback, baby back and hunchback. I also have trouble deciphering the referee signals, many of which come perilously close to obscene gestures I often see while driving in heavy traffic.
Anyway, having failed to convince my wife that we should leave after the National Anthem, I realized I was in it for all four innings. To pass the time, I pulled out my 35mm camera with extra-embarrassing zoom lens and proceeded to mortify my eldest daughter by taking about 500 pictures of her while she was still sitting in the bleachers (and giving me a stink eye that rivaled the odor of the guy seated next to me eating his second boat of chili cheese nachos.)
Speaking of nachos, my youngest daughter seemed to have come along strictly for the refreshments. The highlight of her night was devouring a ginormous pickle while wallowing around in my lap and using my shirt as a napkin. Although she’s all knees, elbows and other pointy parts, I cherish moments like this because I know that soon, she too will refuse to acknowledge my existence as a fellow life form. I just wish that holding her in my lap felt a little less like having my undercarriage trampled by a juvenile bull moose.
My middle daughter has recently entered the dreaded stage of surly teenage morosity (where everything on the planet is “lame,” with the exception of Converse sneakers, fake fingernails and cute guys — meaning barely adolescent male stick figures who spend more time styling their hair than it takes me to mow my yard). She spent most of the game walking to and from the girls’ restroom, though I suspect this was just a ploy to increase her chances of bumping into an East Texas version of Shawn Mendes.
The football game actually turned out to be pretty exciting (as far as I could tell), and my daughter’s halftime performance was outstanding. Because all of the drill team performers dress and style their hair the same, I had a hard time finding her, even with my zoom lens. I eventually spotted her, though; and despite her beautiful smile, I could have sworn she was still giving me the stink eye.
— Jason Graves
Jason (Jase) Graves is a married father of three daughters, a lifelong resident of Longview, Texas, and a Texas A&M Aggie. He writes about home and family issues from a humorous perspective for the Cagle Cartoons syndicate and his blog. Other than writing, his primary hobby is sleeping as late as possible. His piece, “Victoria’s Worst-Kept Secret,” is included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family.