Sawatzke: Somethin’ ‘Bout Friday night lights

A popular country song this summer goes by the name of “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck.” As the title implies, relatively clearly, Kip Moore says there is just something about a truck. To be honest, I’ve never been wrapped up in that emotion.
For me, the song would be “Somethin’ ‘Bout Friday Night Lights.” Ok fine, not as catchy as the previous song. And fine, there is already a song about Friday Night Lights (Boys of Fall by Kenny Chesney). But it’s not as recent. So, stop nitpicking my analogy already.
Anyway, ever since I’ve been old enough to realize the magnitude of the moment, I’ve been addicted to football games played under those Friday night lights.
I love the atmosphere on the field. I love the atmosphere off the field. I love the smells. I love the chill in the air early in the season. I love the crisp, cool air as the season progresses. I don’t even mind the frigid temperatures that are occasionally encountered as the postseason rolls along.
I love the competitiveness. I love that it sets the mood for an entire weekend. I love that it’s the only chance football players get to prove themselves for an entire week. I love that for a full seven days football players must either live with a gutting loss or get to stay high off a big-win.
Perhaps most impressively is that I love all of this despite a pretty forgettable personal experience the bright lights of Friday night.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but for those of you who don’t remember (and really, who would want to remember), when I was in high school, we fielded an absolutely miserable team. Two seasons saw one win, and I (truthfully) don’t remember how many 40-point blowouts. By the end of the 2004 season, we were beaten, and I felt as broken as I ever have from a sport.
But even as the season wore down, I remember recovering in time to wake up each Friday morning with an extra hop in my step. Putting on that jersey in the morning made me 100 times more excited for the school day than I otherwise would have been.
By the time 5 o’clock rolled around on Friday evening, we found ourselves gathered in the locker room getting ready. And without fail, the energy surrounding a Friday night would have me believing we could walk out of whatever game we were entering with a win. Never mind that it didn’t happen once my senior year. The energy that comes with Friday night convinced me every single week that we had a chance. In what other sport could that happen? In what other sport could you continually get beat senseless, and still come back each week expecting different results.
Some call it the definition of insanity. I used to call it Friday night.
And that’s not even getting to the best part, the actual getting out under those lights. Being on the field, from the first warm-up stretch, would without fail be the most intense three and a half hours of my week every single week.
When I was finishing my senior year, the losses were still fresh. The wins from basketball and highlights from baseball overwhelmed football in my brain. It put it on the back burner.
For a year, it stayed that way. Then, my brother started getting minutes as a sophomore, and I started coming back to high school football games. Immediately, I got wrapped back up in them. Soon, it was the sport I missed the most from high school. Not basketball, where we went to state my final two years. And not baseball, where I probably found the most individual success. But football, where we lost by an average of 25 points almost every time we took the gridiron.
As I got farther away from high school, it was clear that the losses moved to the back burner of my brain, while the positives were brought back by my coming back to the game.
I was reminded of the atmosphere, of the intensity, of the literal blood, sweat and tears that go into playing football.
From youth to old age, basketball might still be my favorite all-around sport. But if there was any doubt that football was my favorite high school sport, it was erased by getting to cover the Magic team of 2011.
Watching Monticello be successful, watching the crowds react, watching more and more people show up to watch new stars on the field that last hosted real winning stars more than a couple of decades ago. It all made me realize that there isn’t quite anything else like high school football. No other group rallies a town quite like the boys of fall.
And no other games create lasting memories, moments and bonds quite like those that are played under Friday night lights.

  • Mike Bauman

    I’m 30 years removed from the lights, and I feel the same way. Great job putting the feeling into words Clay.

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