First Posted: 10/17/2009
Fifty years. Five decades. Half a century.
It doesnt really matter how you say it because the truth of the matter is a lot of years have elapsed since Mount Airy and North Surry first faced each other on the football field.
As detailed in our Friday, Oct. 16 edition, its been quite a rivalry, the big game for the two schools for a number of years. Lately Mount Airy has enjoyed dominance of the annual meeting, though both teams have had their times.
Since the teams first squared off against one another much has happened. One could rightly say the world has changed.
The American and Soviet governments went to the brink of nuclear war at least once before the Soviet Union finally crumbled. Cars have gone from stylish, though gas-guzzling, vehicles to largely homogenized modes of transportation.
Men on the moon? Unmanned ships and probes exploring space? That was the stuff of science fiction when this football series began. Cable and satellite television? There were a goodly number of people then who didnt even know what TV was, and color television as a mainstay in most households was still 15 or more years away.
Home computers, MP3 players, the Internet? Not even the best science fiction writers put such concepts on the page.
Even in sports the world has changed dramatically. The Super Bowl hadnt yet been dreamed up, NASCAR was something no one outside the South had heard of, and womens sports were an afterthought at most levels.
Today? Space flight has become so commonplace that most news outlets rarely report on it any longer. Television perhaps not for the better has become such a part of our lives most think of it as a necessity. Home computers are becoming nearly as common as indoor plumbing was in 1959. The Internet makes connecting with the whole world easier than cooking dinner would have been five decades ago, and MP3 players give teens enough music playing power to rival the best of radio stations 50 years ago.
And womens sports? It rivals, and in some cases surpasses, mens sports for excitement and fan interest.
One thing that hasnt changed, though, especially in small towns, is that weekly ritual known as Friday night football. People from all racial and social backgrounds gather for one reason to cheer on the local football team. Well, OK, maybe for two reasons, to cheer for their team and to cheer against the opposition, especially if its a long-time rival.
Many years ago, when I was early in my journalism career, I covered a good bit of sports, including high school football in the little town of West Point, Va. The Pointers that was the local teams name had one particular player who carried the team as quarterback, linebacker, punter and punt returner.
I still recall one crisp October night when the team was on the field and he was waiting to field a punt. Action was stopped, and he simply stood there, arms raised, and let out what can best be described as a primal scream.
He wasnt scared. He wasnt trying to intimidate the other team. Im not even sure anyone else noticed. The guy simply had so much energy and excitement about being on the football field he had to let it out.
That scream, that raw unbridled energy and joy at being on the field is what high school football is all about. The game is the culmination of a weeks worth of practice, of anticipation. Its a place where non-playing teens gather to talk and laugh, where adults assemble to cheer for or against a team and to relive their own high school football memories. Athletes lay it all on the field for bragging rights, for wins and losses, and simply to add their own efforts to the legacy of Friday night football.
It is, in many ways, the rallying point for a community through good times and bad.
Yes, the world has changed a great deal over the past 50 years, but one thing that has remained largely the same is the importance of Friday night football. And our communities, I believe, are better off for holding on to that tradition.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1931.