In Albany, Georgia on Friday nights from August through November, things are different around this town. People are busy concluding their work week and making bank deposits or withdrawals for the weekend. But most importantly, people are scurrying and fluttering around the town like hungry, jealous hummingbirds trying to make it to their favorite high school football game. These fanatics dart in and out of traffic faster on this day, Friday in the fall, than any other day of the week. Drive defensively on Friday during the football season. You could “run into” an angry, hungry “hummingbird.” Be careful!
It is about the fall season. Football, hunting, cooling temperatures, fall festivals, leaves changing into colors that only God can create, and football. Did I say that twice? Football? Oh yeah, especially high school football. There is nothing that I know of that creates more energy and excitement around most Southern towns as Friday Night Lights – booster club members cooking meals and serving them to fans; freshly painted lines on the field itself; the grass trimmed to perfection; cheerleaders putting up their team’s signs of encouragement; officials getting dressed in their striped zebra suits to call the games with only one wearing the white hat because he is the man in charge for this game; the players anxiously eating their pre-game meals nervously; the coaches reviewing their notes and game plans about Friday night’s competition; the radio and stadium announcer reviewing players names and jersey numbers; parents worrying and praying about their sons playing such a violent, collision game; team managers getting the footballs, kicking tees, towels, and water kegs and bottles in place on the sideline; sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, grand parents and friends coming to the stadium to see their loved ones play; finding your seat at the stadium, next to friends and family; the opening prayer; the national anthem; then the coin toss; the players take the field as they run through the smoke and the cheerleader’s sign; now there is tension in the air with anticipation of the kickoff; and let’s not forget our fans that for one reason or another that could not attend, sitting at home listening intently on the radio with visions of the plays being called by the announcers of the game.
Ball is on the tee … as the Georgia Tech announcer of years past, I believe it was Al Ciraldo, used to say, “Toe meets leather …” Game is underway. Are you ready for some football? Can you feel it in the air?
Now we got the game going on, let’s talk about what else Friday Nights are all about. They are about the relationships being built AFTER the games. It is families joining other families for post game celebrations of a victory or a discussion of the loss.
Whether it is on the field after the game, in the parking lot, at a restaurant, or at someone’s home, the experiences and relationships are REAL. The hugs are REAL! The expressions of love are REAL! The disappointments from a loss are REAL! The handshakes and the look in the eyes are REAL! Can you feel it? Have you been there? Also, the smell is REAL! REAL stanky. But one doesn’t notice the stench or the sour smells while hugging and shaking hands.
It is about the kids right then, right now! This is their time. Never to be forgotten, never to be experienced again. Not this Friday night. Every Friday night is special. Every Friday night is different. Every Friday night puts you closer to your last Friday night. Stop long enough to take in each moment of Friday night of the fall. Listen to the sounds. See the sights. Feel the tension. Yell for your team loudly. Smell the smells, although some are not as pleasant as others. These moments are fleeting fast. Enjoy each and every Friday night. There are not many left for some of us.
See you all on the grass after the game on Friday nights!
Love to you all. Be blessed.
Albany resident Bubba Ivey is the father of Deerfield-Windsor junior linebacker and wide receiver Gauphf Ivey. Ivey attended Deerfield as a freshman and sophomore, graduated from Crisp County High School, and played nose tackle for Auburn in 1975 and 1976.