Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Purple and White Pride

I sit on the wooden bench surrounded by other spectators decked out in purple and white, taking in the sights -- the bright lights overhead, illuminating the green turf grass with its perfectly straight white lines and the brilliant regal purple double horseshoe emblem in the exact center; the old steel mill garage in the background, behind the visiting team stands, with its broken out windows, a sad sign of better times gone by. The handful of people who stand on the bridge over the state route overlooking the field and surrounding areas, taking in the intermingling of young and old who gather to watch the “boys of fall” battle it out on the gridiron.

I feel the excitement in the air as the marching band starts their processional around the track the beat of the drums keeping their step. Behind the goal post trumpets, now lifted in the air, start their trilling, the long slide of the trombones, and the rich baritone sounds of the tuba raise in the air as all the instruments join together in the school’s swing march, to the familiar cadence of the drum line. Like a wave, starting at the east end of the stands, fans rise to their feet, cheering and clapping in time to the music. My eyes water a little, knowing that moments like this are ingrained deep into my soul and have played out just as they have in this moment, on fall Friday nights for several decades, knowing that I am a part of the honor, pride and tradition. There’s no escaping it. I bleed purple and white. I will forever be a Purple Rider.

There’s a certain comfort in knowing that some things never change—the pregame rituals, the singing of the alma mater, the cannon that’s fired every time the team scores a touchdown. The familiar faces of past coaches and teachers, catching up with former classmates you happen to run into during the 3rd quarter at the concession stand. Yes, perhaps the band and student section are smaller, but there are still guys who lead the student section in chants and the ones who rush the field after the games. The names of the players have changed but the gray pants, the purple jerseys, the white helmets emblazoned with a silver horseshoe and the game itself, always remain the same.

In small towns like mine, school pride runs deep. I grew up with it, sitting beside my parents, grandparents watching my aunts play in the band, mimicking the movements of the cheerleaders. As a middle school student, watching from the stands, my feet dangling loose above the track holding on the railings, then as a high school student with horseshoes painted on my cheeks stomping and cheering loudly, and now as alumni still intensely proud to don the purple and white colors I identify so closely with.

What about you, are you from a town where school pride runs deep?