The announcer’s voice carried over the crowd’s cheers. Fireworks rocketed into the evening sky. Their green explosions drew me to the football field.
I hadn’t been to a high school football game in years. I became a football fan at Mizzou. In high school, I went to far more soccer games and generally didn’t care about football. Loneliness, bordem and curiosity led me to this game. I’m in Valparaiso helping Michael unpack his belongings that the movers finally delivered Wednesday afternoon. He’s working a late shift tonight and left for work around 3:00. I was left to amuse myself in the apartment that will someday be mine, too. For now I’ve set up a pseudo-bedroom with my air mattress in the dining room.
I spent most of the afternoon unpacking dishes, running them through the dishwasher and organizing them into cabinets once they were clean. While I awaited the painfully slow dishwasher to finish a load, I read “Love in the Time of Cholera.” I’m about halfway through. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing appeals to me much more than Hemingway’s. I won’t make a judgment on the story until I’ve finished it. Eventually I realized that it was far too beautiful outside to waste the entire day in the apartment.
The neighborhood adjoining the apartment complex provided blocks of pretty houses and nice landscaping to observe. As I walked, I realized that despite my love of the wilderness, suburbia will always feel most like home to me. I watched parents come home from work. Kids drew with sidewalk chalk. Women worked in their flowerbeds. Men mowed their lawns. Existence seemed simple and right. That’s when I started feeling lonely. A weird nostalgia for I don’t know what came over me. I wish I could see my future, just once, so I would know what to expect.
Then I noticed people getting ready for a game. Little girls donning green cheerleading uniforms chased each other around a parked minivan. Out came their moms and older siblings, all decked out in green Valpo garb. Another block down I crossed paths with a cluster all dressed in a deep red. I could tell they were walking to the game. I headed back to the apartment, entertaining a vague notion of looking up the game. Apparently Valparaiso High School is just beyond the golf course behind Michael’s apartment. I could hear the announcer when I opened the windows. The fireworks sealed the deal. My high school never had fireworks at our games.
I happened upon a woman with three little girls cutting through the apartment grounds to get to the game. I followed them, trying not to be too creepy. They marched right across the golf course green, with me in tow. (Is this trespassing?) They squeezed through a hedge to get to an opening in the fence that separated the course from the high school. I wouldn’t have found that. I paid my $5 and made my way through the crowd, snagging an open spot on the packed bleachers.
The Valpo Vikings were hosting the Chesterton Trojans. I could only see half the field due to the mass of students standing on the bleachers to my right. I was there to people watch as much as anything. Journalists are always people watching and this was a great place for it. High school students have so much going on in their lives, and they develop their own culture. I saw so many girls acting fake with each other and playing subliminal mind games with the boys. The student section was attentive enough to finish a cheer the marching band started. “We are” — “VALPO!” But most of them weren’t watching the game at all. They stood the entire time, but didn’t cheer or clap for good plays. Only touchdowns. They did bother to boo at the Chesterton cheerleaders when they walked by the bleachers. Rudeness and poor sportsmanship start early.
High school kids don’t like to stay in one place for very long. I stayed for just over half the game, and some kids walked past me about ten times. They were constantly running around looking for other friends or walking past the person they liked or rushing off to share some private gossip. A girl walked with both arms extended behind her; her boyfriend followed grasping both her hands in his. Another couple walked awkwardly clutching each other around the waist. One girl apparently had a Chesterton student with her. “Well that’s why you’re named after a CONDOM!” she yelled at him. “What do you think of that?” I didn’t hear his response. I wonder if they know Trojans were warriors before they were condoms. The man behind me gave a play-by-play commentary to his family as they watched.
I’m at a weird age to crash a high school game. At 23, I hope I look too old to be in high school. I definitely look too young to have a kid on the field. I may have been out of place sitting there alone, wearing neutral colors, looking around at everyone and halfheartedly watching what I could see of the game. After halftime it was dark and chilly despite my jacket. I don’t really like sports, just Mizzou sports. More dishes awaited me, and lots of boxes to break down. The evening’s events were random, but I’m glad I went.