It’s that time of the year that we traditionally think about new beginnings. Kids are back in school. Bus drivers have returned to their old routes. Moms are packing lunches. Sports teams are on the field for morning practice.
Maybe the beginnings aren’t so new. Maybe we are going back to what we always have known. Going back to the things that make us feel like us.
This past Friday I drove out to the tiny town of Elfrida, Arizona to watch a football game. Less than 500 residents live in this middle-of-nowhere farming community but what they lack in size is made up with spirit. The Valley Union High School Blue Devils trounced their competition that night winning 28–8.
It’s no exaggeration to say that it seemed that half the town was there to support the 8-man team and it must have been good for the competitors to know that everyone around cheered them on with chants and cowbells. We all need a little cheering on these days.
The schoolmates’ faces were painted in blue and white. Each guy seemed to have a girl at his side. Cowboy hats and boots were all around. The smell of summer dirt, the kind you can only smell in the open Southwest, filled the air.
Every few minutes the lady announcer reminded us that the local FFA was fundraising in the Burger Shack, a tiny booth where hamburgers, nachos, and all the other sports-watching fare was sold. The kind of food you have to eat when seating on bleachers next to strangers.
I had never been to the football stadium before but it was easy to spot a few miles from entering town. The bright lights gave it away and almost every car and truck you could imagine was parked in one lot.
The lady at the ticket counter was one of those movie characters who greeted you like she always knew you and even though I was only buying one ticket she made sure to chat with me about the mosquitos that just wouldn’t go away.
In some ways, experiencing an 8-man football competition in a town that is miles from the next small town is a lot more special than sitting in a stadium with tens of thousands of…