Friday Night Lights

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The utter brutality and athletic grace of a big hit. The intricate patterns of a high school marching band at halftime with gleaming tubas and ornate uniforms. Cheerleaders flying through the air. A collective tremor running through the bleachers as fans pound their feet in the stands for their team. The drama of a fourth quarter comeback. Electricity in the air. A cowbell clanging when the home team scores. I missed all of it. It had been a while.

Since my son is being homeschooled this year, we don’t really have a high school football team to root for. I picked the closest school available tonight – Marshall High School in Falls Church. Northern Virginia is close to Washington, D.C., the inspiration for a few awfully bland nicknames in these parts. The Washington Senators were later renamed the equally bland Washington Nationals. (The Nats have overcome this by having elaborately costumed President’s races featuring Teddy Roosevelt, Washington and Lincoln during the Seventh Inning Stretch. It’s quite entertaining.) In any event, Falls Church is home to the Marshall High School Statesmen. Discovering that, I immediately pictured a rabid lawmaker frantically waving the Declaration of Independence around, sort of a Patrick Henry on steroids. Maybe he’d wear a wig like an English barrister. Yes. A brash, firebrand, early colonial statesman who could inspire his team to victory ….or to secede from England.

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I felt let down when the actual mascot turned out to be a bald eagle. He had wings and a tail so long it dragged the ground. It reminded me more of a tail that would belong to a Flying Monkey from Oz. But that’s just being picky and ungrateful. For pacing the sideline throughout the game and making a few coordinated movements alongside the cheerleaders in a full bald eagle costume in 90-degree heat with high humidity, Marshall High School’s bald eagle mascot deserves a special award. Unlike the painted nude ladies who apparently now frequent Times Square in New York City, the bald eagle with the monkey-like tail managed to add visual excitement to the scene without causing a ruckus.

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Friday Night Lights