Granddaughter LeeAnn isn’t into team sports. When her dad is watching the Cubs or the Colts or NASCAR on the big TV she makes it a point to do something else. She’s into swimming, but her involvement in team sports is limited to shooting a few hoops on the portable goal outside their house.
But she’s in high school now. When her school friends were forming a cheerblock for Anderson High School football games, she was right there with them, decorated red shirt and all.
But about that. Adult fans go to the games to watch the action while they pull for their favorite team. The kids? They have their competition to outshout the opponents, of course. And cheerleaders to keep them apprised of whether to yell “We want a touchdown!” or “Push ’em back, push ’em back, way back!” But for the most part, football and basketball games are social occasions – the students are there to socialize, to see and be seen.
LeeAnn was able to tell us the final score of the first game. But that was about all she remembered of what actually went on at Collier Field that night. (In all fairness, it wasn’t a particularly memorable night for Indian fans.)
It’s always been that way. Kids go to games to see their classmates in a social setting. Before the game, at halftime and after the game ends (sometimes before) the students spend their time milling around in the hallways or behind the bleachers. Nobody pays any attention to the players warming up on the field or drifting toward the dressing rooms, unless they happen to be dating them or something.
As for watching the game, LeeAnn mentioned one student who complained loudly because she couldn’t see the game from where she was sitting. Apparently the kid was unaware that students don’t get seats in the cheerblock to sit in. They stand ON their seats while the game is going on, the better to be seen and heard and let their presence be known.
Adults, of course, have long known of this proclivity and prefer not to be seated right beside or behind the student section. Not if they want to see what’s going on down on the field or the floor. I recall in the early days of the now-vacated Wigwam, press row was in the middle of the last row of the lower section, right behind the students. Writers and broadcasters found themselves having to stand to see the last minutes of close games. That in part explains why press row was relocated to the end of the court.
The big-name Friday and Saturday night sports, of course, pay the freight for high school athletics. Crowds number in the thousands, thanks in part to the opportunity for students to schmooze while their elders enjoy the game. And why crowds at other sports are mostly the parents of the participants.
Jim Bailey’s column appears on Thursday. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.