Monday, August 31, 2009

Growing Up: Eye of the Tiger

Flipping through a high school yearbook is not a pleasant experience for me. I wore that in high school? My hair looked like it could puncture skin. My glasses would make Paterno jealous. And those pesky Tekamah-Herman jerseys...

Our school mascot was the tiger. Colors were purple and gold ... and the unabashed color of white. White pretty much dominated the jerseys of football and basketball. And our jerseys were stuck in the 1980s fashions, too. "Who wears short shorts?" Apparently, varsity basketball players do, and junior varsity players certainly had to.

It's hard to admit, but the teams we had during my high school tenure were pretty terrible, except for wrestling and volleyball. I am certain this had to do with my presence either as a supporter or a participant. Sports events in rural communities are a big deal, especially in this part of America. They were a major means of social interaction for the parents and a primary way of showing what little sports skill our classes had. The lackluster pep bands and marching bands that are small-school Nebraska were in full swing at THS, with trumpets blaring and woodwinds piercing and saxophones...well, being saxophones, I guess. The marching band was done after the football halftime show, done even before the basketball game started. It was precedent, I guess, but lame precedent in my mind.

Then again, sometimes the sporting events were so painful to watch that abridged duties as a band member were almost blessings. The parents were more interested in town gossip during the second half (football or basketball) than their sons or daughters making a good play. Actually, not true, but the crowd's first half tension often became second half leisure. The outcome of the games were mostly certain, and it was fun to just watch and enjoy the children play something they liked playing.

Sporting events for me were unusual in many ways. During my senior year, I participated in none of them but was commonly at all of them. Either for marching band or pep band, or during breaks from Academic Decathlon study sessions or play rehearsals. The stage for our plays was just across the hall from our gymnasium, so cheering fans commonly interrupted the drama onstage and offstage. You can't call something "drama" without high school teenaged angst controlling every aspect of it, right?

I remember fondly rehearsing for a play in which I had maybe six lines but required perfectly calculating my movements, since the very same scene was repeated again during the last act of the play. I was "the waiter" in the play, which meant that the person who would be most noticed for not perfectly imitating the previous scene was me. So, I went through the scene (first scene of the play), then went to perform pep band songs before the varsity basketball game, then came back to do the scene again for the last act of the play. Let's just say those high notes during "Livin' on a Prayer" were not appreciated during the second part of the rehearsal. What a night.

I make fun of the high school teams, but I did root for them. I genuinely hoped they would win each and every time. More importantly, I hoped they had fun trying. It's no accident that one of my favorite "guilty pleasure" songs is "Eye of the Tiger". Even if we played it a hundred damn times.