Point of View: Why Oh Why Oh

“Once a Jacket, Always a Jacket”

“Welcome to ‘Friday Night Lights,’ Dad,” our daughter Emily said as we walked — she with easy confidence, and I with mouth agape, stunned at the sight of so many, thousands upon thousands — toward Perrysburg High School’s football field, where the Yellowjackets (“Once a Jacket, Always a Jacket”) were playing the Panthers of Toledo’s Whitmer High School, whose quarterback was said to be Ben Roethlisberger’s nephew, a sophomore already being courted, so I was also told, by the University of Michigan.

Before we entered that stadium in northwestern Ohio, a stadium flanked by towering bleachers bursting at the seams with screaming fans and with even taller light towers transforming night into day, Emily made sure I shelled out for some proper Yellowjacket gear, a frenzied buying spree capped by a fistful of 50-50 raffle tickets. 

I almost got a nosebleed walking up to the top of the bleachers, which, when finally there, afforded a panoramic view not only of the field and of the scores of children (two of them Emily and Anderson’s) darting about in the shadows of the goalposts, but of the village of Perrysburg and the Maumee River that courses by it as well. My guesstimate is that there were 5,000 or so there that night, maybe more, which is to say about 20 percent of Perrysburg’s population. I had, as I said, never seen so many. And this didn’t include the bands, the cheerleaders, the dancers, and twirlers.

“It’s like the Roman legions,” I said as they marched onto the field at halftime. I half expected to see acrobats vaulting over the horns of bulls. In the headiness of it all, any caveat having to do with concussions fled from my temporal lobes.

And it wasn’t just football. The next day, in a small college town an hour of soybean farms away, junior high and high school boys and girls from 60 schools in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana swept wave upon wave out onto the green Tiffin Cross-Country Carnival’s courses as their parents, coaches, relatives, and friends full-throatedly urged them on.

The sense of fellowship — at the football game (the Yellowjackets lost, lopsidedly, but their twirler was fantastic) and at the cross-country races — was palpable, uplifting, an innocent joy you never wanted to end.