Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Teen Scene -- Football and Friendship

I grew up in one of those small southern towns where football is the center of the universe.  Every Friday night when the local high school (there's only one!) plays at home, the whole county comes out to watch.  The Alumni all visit in time for the homecoming game, it's like a multi-year high school reunion sitting in the concrete bleachers.

http://www.skyways.org/towns/Jetmore/images/hsfield1.jpg

As a teenager though, it's something else entirely.  Not only are football games a source of school pride, but the games also represent a unique opportunity for shifts in the school's social structure.

Picture this:  You have a field full of the social elite -- your football players and cheerleaders.  I don't care how cliche it sounds, it's the truth.  Follow along to the fence line where teens gather in large groups (much to the dismay of every adult within walking distance).  They're here to see and be seen.

Of course, you always have your stadium-sitters who are your in-between class.  They're here, they're nice, and nobody's going to mess with them, but they won't make any attempts to include them either.  After that you've got your behind the stadium dwellers, which are usually the ones smoking or otherwise doing their best to show their hatred of these stupid cliche moments in teenage life in this stupid small town they can't wait to escape.

But it's these cliche moments that are pivotal.  Rumors fly around the field quicker than an angry hornet, and reputations are crushed in a single sentence.  Fights are used to either tear someone down a level, or to prove you're macho enough to take a step up.  Friday night football is the time where anything is possible, all bets are off.

A lot of the YA books I've read have these social structures in school that are sealed in iron.  Nobody is penetrating that class scale, no matter what happens.  But in reality, there are these moments where change can happen, and I wanted to share one of them.

What about you guys?  Did you come from a town like mine where football and back woods parties ruled the school?

4 comments:

Michelle Julian said...

Thanks for sharing your insight into this culture. I've always loved watching movies about small towns. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, my urban life was the total opposite of what you've described and I find it so fascinating.

Emy Shin said...

This is really fascinating to read -- thanks for sharing your experience with us! I'm also a southern gal, but living in a huge city, I didn't have such experience. There were so many students (more than 3000 in my high school) I don't think I even knew who the cheerleaders and football players were.

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