Friday Night Lights 2015: Week 5

Autumn began last week and it felt like it at the Ottumwa-City High game on Friday night.

The had sun set and the lights had taken effect before kickoff, illuminating the field and stands. Walking to the stadium, I looked to the west and the clouds were colored deep orange, red, and purple. It was hard not to admire the sight and acknowledge the earlier sunset. It had been a relatively warm day, but many fans were dressed in hooded sweatshirts and light jackets, ready for the cool night. It was the first time I have worn a jacket outside in a long time — a telltale sign that my favorite season has arrived once again.

When I found a place in the stands and pulled out my little notebook to start tracking each possession (I note the starting position, notable big plays, and the end result), my pen stopped working. I tried to revive it, drawing swirls to get the ink flowing, but it was useless. So I gave up on taking any notes, put my notebook and pen away, and sat back to enjoy the cooling evening and game. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

I’ve been feeling it again — that self-imposed shame for attending high school football games. I am a very self-conscious person and I wonder what it says about me that I am 32 years old and still going to high school football games. Part me thinks I shouldn’t go, thinks I have outgrown it, thinks it’s embarrassing that I even consider going. I have also been wondering why I write about the games I attend and the experience of going — essentially publicizing something I feel partially shameful about. (These Friday Night Lights posts have, over time, tended become game recaps that no one reads. For that reason I may end the series after this season.) I love writing, don’t do it enough, and am happy to have something enjoyable to write about. But, again, I wonder what it says about me. I could use my creative skills for something else, much like I could do something else on Friday nights in the fall.

But all those imagined concerns melted away Friday night. I watched the game, hung out with some people I knew, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. It was a good game — City High scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win, 35–17 — but being there Friday night reminded me that I am not there just for the game. I go to enjoy beautiful autumn nights.

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