Last night I had the pleasure of going to my very first high school football game in the United States. Wow! It’s a really big deal. Note: Be warned that I’ve spend my life avoiding football because my father was a big fan. I know very little about the game. Read on, if you dare.
Forty years ago, I was a cheerleader in a small town buried in the Canadian tundra where we wore ratty, hand- me- down tunics and stood on the sidelines of many football games freezing our bare legs off, wondering what players had crushes on us. What I witnessed last night when Eastside Catholic played Bainbridge High School took high school football to a whole new level.
My ticket to the event was through a mom of an EC cheerleader and when she suggested we take the ferry and see the game, it sounded like a grand adventure after a humdrum week of rain and cleaning the house. I’ve avoided Eastlake High School games (down the road) because my son, who is a super fan would be mortified if either parent showed up. We are forever banned to any school events.
Heading off to catch the 4:30 ferry sounded like a fun idea until we didn’t get on the early ferry and waited for the 5:30. As any woman will tell you, two mothers always have lots to talk about to fill an hour. However, our cozy café dinner plans went flying out the window with the ferry that sailed without us. Landing and disembarking, we grabbed a quick sandwich at a Bainbridge main street deli, and then hoofed it over to the high school to catch kick off. The back of our car was filled with down jackets, raingear, stadium seats, mitts, hats, hot drinks and blankets as we parked and remarked on how cute the cheerleaders looked in their new orange and blue uniforms. (I secretly thought the orange hair bows were slightly large but if you’ve ever seen me at the grocery store in mismatched plaids and rain boots on a sunny day, you’ll know that I have no fashion sense whatsoever.) Positioning our blessed and comfortable stadium seats on the metal bleachers, we hunkered down to watch the team rush out of the locker rooms and onto the field. My friend had a list of the players so while sipping hot tea, I matched numbers to faces and waited for the cheerleaders to get in formation. There was a large group of kids from EC in the stands, some of whom had ridden on the Spirit Bus from Sammamish. I was glad to see that parents were rudely told by their spirit-filled children to stay on one side of the bleachers and not end up in the teen zone. Faces were painted, capes were fastened, a large flag was unrolled, the cheerleaders had their last sip of hot chocolate and the game began. The cheerleaders watched from a formation between us and the field that would’ve made an army sergeant proud. Every minute or so they’d turn around and do a cheer to keep the crowd engaged. They were awesome and I couldn’t believe how many cheers they had to keep in their heads, all with actions. I had hoped to see a big cheer with a stunt at half time but apparently those are reserved for home games. I was told by my friend that at half time the opposing team’s cheerleaders usually come over to meet the girls and take them back to their side for the half time show, then the opposing cheerleaders give them little gift bags which I thought was a super- lovely show of good sportsmanship. When I was a cheerleader we just sneered at the other girls across the field and called them names under our breath, criticizing their costumes to make ours seem better.
Over the course of the game, we watched number 1 repeatedly tuck the ball into his chest and hoof it to the end, number 68 plough through groupings of smaller defensemen and many others play what must have seemed like the best game so far this season for Eastside Catholic. I’m not sure what the score was (I’m not a sports reporter people) but it seemed like about 87 to 0 when we left the bleachers. I say left the bleachers instead of 'end of the game' because at 9:20, one of the coaches advised everyone on the spirit bus, including the cheerleaders, to head to the buses if they wanted to catch the 9:45 ferry. We REALLY didn’t want to wait for the 11:45 ferry so we hot-tailed it back to the car, with everyone else, correctly assuming that Bainbridge High School could not catch up in the few minutes that were left in the game.
Needless to say the buses (fans, players, cheerleaders) rocked with singing, dancing and general happiness as they rolled onto the ferry. It must’ve felt good for those boys to implement their plays and get to the goal zone with very little to stand in their way. (sorry Bainbridge) The general mood on the almost empty ferry was excitement with lots of hand shaking and back slapping. I was particularly impressed with EC’s spirit and their gentle manners. From what I could see, name calling was nowhere to be seen and after the win, the boys were just understandably happy. No 'in your face' nastiness about their big win, not that I could see. Part of that might have had to do with the jovial priest who alternated between doing pushups for the cheerleaders and cheering the boys on from the sidelines last night. He set a nice tone for the kids as he roamed around talking and laughing with the teens. Eastside Catholic’s win last night was big but the bigger win was the fun and good sportsmanship exhibited. Well done, kids!