On Friday night, I was absent-mindedly driving down Elm Road and was greeted by "Field of Dreams"-level traffic. People were going which way, filling lots, yards, driveways, alleys, and every nook and cranny of Warren G. Harding High School and its vicinity.
I had forgotten that the street would be clogged with eager football fans, arriving to see the Raiders take the field. New school, same team spirit.
I am a proud WGH?alumnae. Class of ... well, after grunge, and before iPods. Thusly, I am well-versed in high school football fever. Lasts from about the third week of July until people start getting really worried about the Browns. Take two hot dogs and play armchair quarterback in the morning.
I was too late for Korey Stringer and too early for Mario Manningham, but just in time for some good turn-of-the-century action. From Paul Warfield to Deryck Toles to Prescott Burgess, so much talent has run the ball home over the years. We all saw some great players.
Most of the time I was in school, I missed the majority of the action since I was a proud band geek, too busy playing the fight song every time we scored (too often to let your horn cool down) and trying to eat the Subway sub we got every week as a snack (we affectionately called the smooshed sandwich "lettucebreadham") without messing up my uniform.
Another column could be written about the life of band geekery (and how fans would come to watch trumpeter Sean Jones play the solo in "Sing, Sing, Sing" and leave, assured WGH?would win), but back to the subject at hand.
I remember my first game; in seventh grade at Harry B.?Turner, the budding band geeks got to sit in at a real live football game, and chime in with dawdling versions of "Hang On Sloopy" from the bleachers.
Football rules were beyond me, but I soon caught on; downs, field goals, penalties. It's in your blood when you grow up here; all you need is some exposure to stadium lights to bring it to the surface.
I remember the big rivalries: Fitch, Mooney, Howland. Pranks were pulled, parking lots were silly-stringed.
The air is rich with tradition. Everyone in Warren has heard tales from the gridiron, and at each game, you could be seeing athletic history unfold. Raiders were heroes, regal in their pads and helmets.
After I graduated, I got to see the game from the home stands - a welcome change of perspective. Watching with fellow alumni, before or after my time, everyone shares home team enthusiasm.
When the team runs the tunnel and busts through the big cheerleader-painted paper sign, you can't help but to leap to your feet. Raider or Panther, East Side or West Side, whether the score is in the single digits or so high it threatens to roll the scoreboard over, everyone roots for the gold and white, fireworks or no fireworks. Still, every time I hear the boom from my desk at the Tribune, I do a mental cheer. Touchdown Raiders!
Austintown, Massillon, whatever. Shake it off, boys. You have the whole town behind you, and the glory days that were, and are yet to come. All hail.