Saturday, October 23, 2004

Notes from the bleachers

I went to a high school football game last night for probably the first time since I myself was in high school. It was smaller and somewhat more pathetic than I remember from my younger days, but equally as chilly. We went because it was "band night," at which eighth-grade musicians tag along with the marching band to get a glimpse of their rigorous future, and my seventh-grade daughter wanted to check it out to get a preview of her own experience next year. A few observations:

• The efforts made in recent years to turn cheerleading into a sport of its own -- the loudspeaker repeatedly referred to the spirit squad as the "Competition Cheerleading Team" -- has had a negative effect on the ability of cheerleaders to, you know, lead cheers. Elaborate pyramids and tossing-a-member-in-the-air routines were done with lots of enthusiasm, while the "First and ten, do it again" part seemed like an afterthought. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that the home team was getting trounced, and didn't actually make first and ten until about the fourth quarter.

• Band music has just gotten weird. Bad enough they were using "Light My Fire" as the interval ditty repeatedly played while the band moved into the next formation. But when they marched to a spirited version of "Let's Do the Time Warp" from the "Rocky Horror Picture Show," complete with a line-up of band members doing the dance, I knew I had finally reached that terrible stage of aging at which things that were cool and subversive in your youth become cute and harmless. Did people ever feel that way about "Stars and Stripes Forever"?

• I live in the northeast now, and the football games of my youth were in Southern California, and so it's silly of me to say that I remember feeling just as cold then as I did last night. My husband teases me all the time when I tell him I used to wear wool sweaters and down jackets when I was a kid, but the truth is, cold is relative. When you live in a balmy climate, you put on mittens when the temperature dips into the 60s. So I wore multiple layers and huddled beneath a blanket and sipped hot chocolate in my high school bleachers just like I did last night, although it was about 20 degrees colder, and I've moved up to coffee, and actually we forgot the blanket and so my knees were freezing. Music and styles of cheerleading may change, but the sensation of shivering on cold metal bleachers and wishing the game would be over already is one the body never forgets.

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