By Tim Peterson
I had to fill out a google form and send it in by e mail the week of the event. I had to wear a mask the entire contest. I had to have a temperature check at the gate. Then I was escorted to my seat for the first high school football game of the 2020-’21 season.
Yes a seat. I wasn’t allowed on the field. I wouldn’t be working the sideline for this one. I would be sitting in the stands with the rest of the El Rancho fans, or immediate family members I should say, two per player as per COVID-19 protocols laid out by the school district.
There was no open concession stand, again protocols…no hot chocolate or coffee to you warm you up on what turned out to be a chilly night. Where’s the nachos with the liquid cheese? And yes there were fans in the stands, a few moms, dads, aunts and uncles of the players down on the field. But, I was admonished, make sure you stay at least six feet apart from them. Always adhere to proper social distancing. If they ask you how many yards Johnny, their nephew the starting running back, has either yell 54 on 7 carries or just give them hand signals.
The fans were fine with me however they weren’t with the officials. “Where’s the blanking flag?” one guy yelled early in the first quarter. “C’mon ref, get some glasses!” a lady screamed minutes later. The line of the night may have been in the second half when one guy bellowed ‘”Hey ref! I didn’t know this was the WWE!”
This continued throughout the contest. But if the officiating was bad the play on the field was worse. When you haven’t played for 15 months the timing is off. It was more than off, it was non existent. There were fumbles, interceptions, penalties, bad snaps and more miscues then you would see in a pick up flag football game made up of junior high kids out on the street in the middle of summer. And that was just on the first series.
From my vantage point on the 50-yard line I still had to cover this thing. The view was ok but have you ever tried to get the number of a receiver catching a pass on the far sideline with three defenders around him from the stands? With bad eyes? While you’re freezing? And a guy right behind you yelling about the WWE?
So add it all up and what do you get? A great night! High School football was back! When you love something 15 months is about 12 months too long. At that point, a week ago Friday night, they could have played out in a gravel parking lot and I would have been there with a camera and a clipboard. Heck, give me three google forms and four temp checks, and tell me to stay 100 feet apart from everybody and I would have been good to go.
Ugly football? Sure at times. But it was my ugly football. A little cold? Of course but I’m cold watching high school football, which is the greatest sport ever for those of you that didn’t know. It beats sitting on the couch in your warm living room and watching another episode of “Dateline”.
Wear a mask? I’ll wear a hazmat suit if it means I can cover the game.
As for the fans getting on the zebras that’s all part of it. That’s what makes high school football fun. It always makes for a good laugh. I actually would have been disappointed if the fans were quiet.
The return of Friday Night Lights was like greeting an old friend that has been away for over a year. You welcome them with a handshake, well a fist bump now, and sit down and enjoy their company. You’re just glad to see them and happy to have them back. Sure they have their faults but that’s what you love about them.
It will be even better when everything gets back to normal, but for now I’ll wear the mask, get the temp checks, fill out a form, sit in the stands and live without the coffee. I do wish they would bring back the nachos though. The kind with that thick liquid cheese that spills over the sides of the paper tray. Those are a must.
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at email@example.com or Twitter @tspeterson40 and Facebook – Tim Peterson.