I had the best seat in the house. For three years, every Friday night home game, I was there. Sitting in the press box high above the fifty yard line, with a microphone in front of me and my wife, Caren, sitting beside me. I was the PA announcer, for my son’s high school, and Caren was my spotter.
We actually weren’t that high as the press box was only about 15 rows up. We played on a borrowed middle school field where the lights didn’t quite reach the end zone. The press box was usually 30 degrees hotter, or colder, than ambient air temp and the plexiglas windows had a nice warp in them that made you a little queasy until you got used to them. There was one clean spot where if you leaned just right you had a nice view of the field.
I volunteered for the job when they had no one. It was a step of faith. The last time I was in front of a microphone was years earlier at a small country station in central Ohio. It came back pretty quick. Of course, all I had to do was talk. The boys on the field were the ones doing all the work.
The first year we were there they played eight man football. It looks kinda funny, but a linebacker hits just as hard and a touchdown pass is still a touchdown pass. They roared thru the season like the Lions they were, and thirteen weeks later, they wrapped their arms around a state championship.
A new season, a new coach, a new athletic director, and a new look, our boys went to war. They moved up to eleven man football. Trips across the county became trips across the state. That state championship trophy grew dusty in a display case as our boys took a beating. Those new black, purple, and white uniforms were, and are, the best looking uniform I’ve ever seen on a 30 man team. They were, however, covered in the blood and sweat, of boys quickly becoming men.
Thru it all I put on my announcer’s voice, called the plays, and introduced the participants. I promised myself I would be an impartial announcer when the microphone was on. I would do my job and make sure everyone knew who was doing what out on the field.
What you didn’t hear, was up in that box, when the mircrophone was off. We screamed when you turned over the ball. We screamed louder when you made a great play, or scored a touchdown. Caren did pushups everytime you pushed the ball into the end zone. One season she did alot of pushups. The door was shut, and the microphone was off, so you never knew. We were never as loud as those great fans of yours below us, but we did the best we could.
You guys packed them into the stands. You had a strong, loyal following. Every week I introduced student vocalists to sing our national anthem. On any other stage, those students would be finalists on any reality singing program. We prayed before each game, and usually I had the honor. I prayed for your safety, good sportsmanship, and your competitive spirit and talents. If you’re a praying man, you’ll know it doesn’t get any better than that.
One of your biggest fans was a grandfather up in Ohio who never even saw you play. He had played high school football back in the day, whatever day that happened to be. I called him every Friday night with a final score and updates. Dad, my dad, was all alone and in not that great of health. One Friday night I called him before the game and he wasn’t feeling that well. I kept him on the line and announced the first half with a mircrophone in one hand and my cell phone in the other. As the game came to the half and the players went to their “locker room,” actually just some pop up tents at the end of the field, I decided to keep the game going just for my dad.
I was going to fake it. I had seen you guys do it before, I closed my eyes and saw everything,
“The Hawks are lining up for the kickoff. Back deep to receive for the Lions, number 9, Landon Comeans. The kick is deep, Comeans two yards deep in the end zone takes the ball. Up the left side, breaks a tackle, gets six good blocks and he’s off to the races! 30, 20, 10 TOUCHDOWN LIONS!”
I opened my eyes in an empty press box, looking at an empty field. That old man never knew, and I never told him, but he went to bed that night knowing what he already knew. That his grandson was one fine young man playing on a whole team of fine young men.
These young men are special to me. Some more special than others, but I’m not going to mention names. I don’t want to leave anyone out or hurt any feelings. The season’s over, a bunch of young men are moving on to college, a bunch more are stepping up and onto the field, and a new stadium is in the works.
Three seasons have passed, my son is graduating this spring, and dad passed away this past April. I don’t know if I’ll be invited back next season or not, but I do know a couple of things, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and I hope that new press box has some air conditioning.