I recently wrote the following as a guest post for another blog, The Kentucky Sports Guys. You can read the original post here. Although I wrote it specifically for that blog, I thought I’d share it on What Are This as well.
Substitute teaching in my old high school has brought about some serious déjà vu. It still smells the same. The locker I had sophomore year still gets stuck. The paint is starting to show through where my class painted our parking spots as seniors.
It’s been five years since I strolled down the halls I thought I owned, but as I’ve observed the atmosphere from a very different perspective, I’ve noticed that some things are a little different. Kids don’t know how to communicate without technology anymore. Most of them also post vlogs about their everyday lives, which usually aren’t even that entertaining. Handwriting has progressively gotten worse. Cars are bigger and computers are smaller. And who the heck deemed Popsockets and fidget spinners necessary?
Anyway, there is a quintessential element of high school that is still exactly the same as it was when I was in high school, and it is probably the same as it was when you were there too.
The sporting events. More specifically, what students do and how they function at sporting events.
The following is something that may bring back some rah rah memories. These are the unwritten student rules of high school ballgames.
Painting up occurs well in advance—sometimes hours. Tribal groups put on war paint as they go into battle to strike fear into their enemies. Similarly, it’s a time-honored tradition for people to “paint up” before ballgames. Some people take that tradition to the extreme. I distinctly remember painting up for a “pink out” game in high school to support breast cancer awareness. Someone in my friend group thoughtlessly purchased a very permanent type of pink craft paint. We looked like we had weird sunburns for days.
You can’t get to the gym or field too early and risk being seen by yourself. Otherwise, you’re just sitting alone in the bleachers with no one but the fifty-year-old fans who insist on getting there an hour early because they’re afraid of not getting their regular seats. No, you must arrive approximately five minutes before the game begins. Doing so allows you to stroll by the entire crowd so as many people as possible will see you as you make your grand entrance.
Sitting with your parents = social faux pas. Unless you’re a player, a cheerleader, or a band member, you obviously sit in the student pep section. Why on earth would you want to be seen sitting with your family? You have to be independent.
Completely contradictory to being independent, if you’re going to the restroom or concession stand, a friend or group of friends must go with you. It’s as if you’re going to get lost on the way there. But seriously, if you’re friends aren’t with you, who are you going to talk to as you wait in the long concessions line?
If you have a letterman jacket then you have to wear it. Doing so establishes a distinguished persona. Bonus points if you have a significant other and you’re wearing their letterman jacket; it shows all those spectators you pass while you’re making your grand entrance that you’re “taken.”
Homecoming consists of dressing up to the max until after the hoopla is over. Homecoming candidates sport their Sunday best, but after the crowns go on and there’s a brief period of everyone taking pictures with the homecoming court, everyone’s attire becomes a mismatched ensemble consisting of loosened neckties or dresses with tennis shoes.
When the cheerleaders throw free things into the crowd, you will do practically anything for them to toss you something. I’ve seen a guy leap over a six-foot rail to get his hands on a mini foam football.
There are the pep club leaders and the pep club followers. Everyone gets hyped up in the pep section, but there are those who are known for the hyping. They’re usually the ones in front who are wearing something ridiculous and shouting louder than anyone else. They lead the cheers and take the most flak from the other team.
Your throat needs to be sore the next day or you didn’t try hard enough. The louder the crowd, the better the game. The players need to hear you, after all. There’s also that annoying opposing team’s side, and you’d rather face imprisonment than have them out-shout you.
There is a noise hierarchy. The closer to the front you sit, the louder you have to be. The ones towards the back are usually freshmen who are there for support and will one day become the great pep section leaders like all those before them. Anyway, the noise increases as you travel down the bleachers.
If you don’t scream at the referees about something, you’re not doing it right. It doesn’t matter if they are the fairest refs of them all. They are subject to public ridicule when they put on that zebra shirt. I was once at a basketball game when one of the refs tripped over his own two feet. We figuratively destroyed him.
There’s always that one classmate who screams something that is a little too risque. It’s usually one in the front. And he usually says something that you hope the refs don’t hear. And it makes everyone cower and hide their faces. It’s the occasional remark about the other team’s waterboy, or the other coach’s unibrow, or the ref’s mother.
There’s always at least one dude wearing sunglasses. I doesn’t matter if it’s a night football game or an indoor basketball event. He thinks they make him cooler. Maybe they do. Regardless, there’s one in every crowd.
You stand the freak up. You only sit down if it’s halftime or you’re doing the wave or roller coaster cheer. Also, if someone makes a touchdown or three-pointer, you must express emotion by jumping up and down while making a “Wooooooo” sound.
If you didn’t take a picture, did you even go? You think today’s kids are so different because they feel the need to post updates on their Snapchat stories, but you essentially did the same thing. You took pics to share on Facebook or archaic MySpace. Or you cheesed for a pic that would be developed and taped to a locker or placed in a photo album. Or you posed for the yearbook photographer. Or you stood still as someone carved your likeness on a stone tablet. The mediums may have changed, but the photo ops remain the same.
Ballgames are such big events because they go along with the fun, reminiscent parts of high school. I can’t remember what year the Bill of Rights was ratified or how a cell carries out mitosis, and I’m willing to bet that most of you can’t either. But you remember the way your favorite school cafeteria lunch tasted, or what you wore to prom, or what the coach said that one time that caused him to get kicked out of a basketball game.
You remember the sporting events because they were platforms for your high school memories. Part of your adolescence still lingers at them. They were crazy, loud, beautiful times, and they will continue to provide students with those memories for generations to come.
When you revisit your old school as a fan, or you take your kids or grandkids to a game, you see a group of current students. They are different from you in countless ways, yet somehow they are living the same lives you once lived. And for a moment—just a moment—you remember the days when you stood on your feet and cheered for your team.