By Sue Murphy
When my daughters were in high school, autumn Friday nights were spent at the football field. Harold and I weren’t official athletic boosters, our girls not having the height, weight or gender to secure a middle linebacker position, so we became boosters of the boosters, support people for the marching band.
We had endured painful grade school band concerts, years of off-key practice sessions in our living room, so we were thrilled when our children joined a group that would play, not only outside, but much farther away. What we didn’t think of was that, if the girls were marching, we would be marching too, toting flutes and French horns to football stadiums conference-wide.
Away games are a challenge. You’re coming as an interloper, an agent for the opposing team, so your bleachers are always situated windward without benefit of cover from the elements. One particularly bad field positioned the visitors’ stands directly over a swamp. We spent the entire game swatting giant Mothra mosquitoes and were grateful when halftime came so we could legitimately leave our seats. Not to get snacks. No. For band parents, halftime is the whole point of being there, the payoff for the hundreds of man-hours you’ve spent selling program ads and chocolate bars.
When the drum cadence commences and your child’s shiny face appears above her even shinier horn, you swell with pride. Of course, at away games, you’re swelling from the wrong side of the field. Bands play to the home team. Visitors only receive the show in disjointed echoes as the music reverberates off the press box. Hence, band parents leave the comfort of their mosquito-infested seats to crouch along the home team fence line.
Looking back, I don’t know why we did this. It was the same show every week, home or away. Of course, it was the only shot freshman parents got to hear their children play at all, because during home games, they were cloistered in the concession stand selling sodas and hot dogs to pay for the band’s end-of-the-year trip to Orlando.
But I can’t complain. Band parents had it easy. We hoped our child wouldn’t hit a sour note or march in the wrong direction. Players’ parents stood by hoping their sons wouldn’t break a bone.
And here we are, ready to start another season. So, as parents, band and otherwise, gather in the stands once again, I send out a few hopes of my own.
I hope you aren’t everyone’s homecoming game. When they have a parade on the line, schools tend to line up a team they think they can handily beat, so I hope your away games are not filled with crepe paper floats and the crowning of somebody else’s queen.
I hope the kicker makes every field goal and extra point. On both teams. I can’t help but feel sorry for that poor kid out there all by himself in front of the entire school. High school is hard enough without being the reason your team doesn’t win the championship. Or the homecoming game.
I hope it doesn’t rain. It’s supposedly manly to play in the muck and mire, but sitting in the stands huddled under a plastic poncho is no fun at all.
That being said, there will be rain and worse, so parents, I hope you remember your umbrellas or hand warmers or whatever the weather requires. And bug spray.
I hope the concession stand has plenty of soda when it’s hot and hot chocolate when it’s cold. And M&M’s. You’ll need them when your child is about to play a solo or kick a field goal.
Other than that, just have fun. Program ads and chocolate bars, toting and crouching aside, these years go by way too fast. Look up at the lights and enjoy.