Saturday, October 5, 2013

'The game's the thing . . .'

Tenaha vs. San Augustine Football by Andrew Brosig Photography

Tenaha senior running back Chavis Gregory breaks away from the pack at the start of a long run during the first half Friday in San Augustine. (Andrew D. Brosig/The Daily Sentinel)

Tenaha vs. San Augustine Football, a photo by Andrew Brosig Photography on Flickr.

Gotta love some small high school football on a Friday night in Texas. Go to just about any small town in the fall as the school years ramps up and look for the lights on the horizon. That's where the action will be.

And it's more than just a game. Some say football is a religion in Texas. Particularly in small towns, it's a community event. Everyone comes out, whether their son or grandson plays or even just rides the bench, whether their girls cheer, march in the band or sell programs, Friday night football is THE event of the week.

And it's not limited to Texas. Small towns everywhere almost revolve around those Friday night traditions. Go to almost any school on almost any Friday in the autumn and you'll find them: Community groups cooking burgers and dogs, elementary and middle school kids wandering around, friends greeting friends they haven't seen all week, connecting via a common interest.

That's not something you find at any other level of the game. Pro football is all about big money. Face it, to some extent, even college football is as much a financial institution for the schools today as it is an athletic activity.

San Augustine High School cheerleaders fire up the crowd on the sidelines during a high school football game against Tenaha on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (Andrew D. Brosig/The Daily Sentinel)

Even at big city high schools, while the spirit is there, its just not the same. I can remember, in a high school where my senior class was larger than the entire population of some of the schools I cover now, maybe half the people who went to the football games in my home town were actually there to watch the game. The other half, mostly kids, were there to see and to be seen. Some were there to hook up with boyfriends/girlfriends. They could have just as easily been wandering around downtown for all that. It didn't necessarily matter there was a game happening on the other side of the fence.

At small schools, in small towns, everybody's involved, from the bank president to the minimum-wage fast-food worker. 

It's the great equalizer. Elementary school kids dress up in school colors on game day. Student councils at all levels spend the days leading up to the game making banners, putting up signs around the campuses, getting entire school districts involved in "The Team."

And that's part of the great thing of being a photojournalist. I get to participate in that weekly ritual, even if its only vicariously, as an observer. I can't walk into a football stadium on a Friday night without being overwhelmed by the excitement, if only on the periphery. 

Running back Chavis Gregory (12) leaps away from San Augustine defenders Kordell Parks (18) and Jamikel Roberts and into the end zone. (Andrew D. Brosig/The Daily Sentinel)

I've been doing this job here in East Texas long enough that I'm a fairly familiar face at high school sporting event. That's definitely a mixed blessing, I'll admit. On the downside, if someone doesn't like the coverage they're getting, they know whom to call, for example.

But the upside is so much more. Sometimes, I'll have to shake a dozen or more hands between the gate and the field before I even start photographing the game. And it's nice, when people take the time to thank me for being there, show their appreciation for our paper covering the game. 

But that, too, is standard in small towns. People just take the time to say hello, go the extra couple of steps to let you know you're appreciated, that your work is valued, that the effort you're putting out is making a difference.

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