The teams come running out with more energy than a 2nd grader the day after Halloween except this time these guys are focused. Focused on their goal to win the game. The bands are focused, too, but their attention goes to following an established choreography playing out on the field. The bands tune up with a few songs. Then they trade off Alma Maters. The referees come out. Hundreds of people stand up, go still and sing the Star Spangled Banner. Most place their hands over their hearts. It’s absolutely still throughout the stadium except for the soft voices of those brave enough to sing along. It’s enough to make the coldest heart glow. It’s three-minutes worth of patriotism and national pride.
Most autumn nights in Texas are glorious weather. The lights are so bright every color shines clear and true. The Rowlett Mighty Eagle Band plays their signature song for every kick-off: “Fly like an Eagle.” The whistle blows, boys run towad each other and the game begins.
And that’s usually when I lose interest in the game. If our team scores the boys on the spirit squad run across the field holding flags that spell “ROWLETT.” The kid in the eagle costume runs with them waving his wings. They circle around the school flag and run back to the end zone. As often as not a couple of the guys are off somewhere having an ADD moment but the remaining boys run out there anyway, spelling out “LETT” but that doesn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit.
It’s traditions like this that give the energy a reason for being. Parents and grandparents sit in the stands even on the cold and rainy nights because they love these kids. They want them to learn to work on a team of some sort whether it be the drill team, cheerleaders, band, flags or football. Each team teaches the same thing: how to work together for a common goal. They just dress differently and have varying accouterments and expenses. I think band may be the best bang for your buck but that’s just my opinion.
So far this year, we’ve had just enough wins that everyone is happy. We don't have the best team around but we’re not the worst.When I went to high school we were very proud of the fact our football team had been the state champions a few years before. My own graduating class, however, will be remembered as the first time in the history of the school the football team went the entire season without winning a single game. So I’m happy if we win only one game.
They didn’t make the playoffs—which the band parents are totally OK with. By the ninth half-time show you have the music memorized and you’re tired of schlepping all that stuff around. Out of nine games there is always the risk of forgetting something fairly important like your instrument. Band parents are actually relieved when the football team doesn’t make the playoffs because they get their lives back.
I love the uniforms. I love everybody doing the same thing at the same time in the same way.
However, I loved last week’s game on Halloween night because everybody wore a costume instead of their uniform. They were all different for a change. Too much uniformity can get boring after a while. Yet, even with the different costumes there was a sort of uniformity: everyone was in a costume. They were far beyond just a bunch of kids in jeans. It was a whole group of people putting time and effort into what they wore. There were Waldos and Dorothys, Minions and Supermen, a couple of Santa Clauses and an assortment of cowboys, zombies, bananas, doctors and monsters. It was a lot easier to spot Sarah in this crowd. Instead of trying to find the smallest freshman in a crowd of people dressed exactly alike all we had to do was look for Dorothy. There were only three of them. And she was the only one with ruby red slippers.
The Rowlett band is one of the biggest ones around-- they have 400 kids in this band. They have worked incredibly hard and have won every one of the three competitions they’ve entered this year. At one competition they not only won across the board in every category, they scored a unanimous top score in their biggest contest. But the competitions are over now and Halloween was time to just relax and have fun.
So for half-time on Halloween, not only did both school bands dress in costume but they did something I’ve never seen before.
They combined the two bands into one half-time number: All in costume, all playing the same music (Thriller), all dancing the same dance at the same time. There were no school uniforms to divide them into separate bands: only a marvelous assortment of costumes .When you put both bands, drill teams and flag corps on the same field at the same time it was a marvelous sight. It was fun. It was exhilarating.
It took us back to that moment before the kickoff when the score was equal and no one had gotten the best of the other. When we were all equal and hope was in the air.
It’s good to work hard and try your best. But life can get too serious at times. I’m not really sure God intends for us to do that. I think maybe that was the whole reason behind the Sabbath commandment. We try our best, we mess up sometimes, and we accept corrections and move on, rejoicing in the love and grace and mercy that surround us. Then we celebrate being alive.
Year one down. Five more to go. I wonder how long before I get tired of hearing “Fly Like an Eagle.” Probably never.