After The Fall
By Dave Anderson
New Hampshire Sunday News
Publication date: November 11, 2007
“And I hope when I get older I don’t just sit around thinkin’ about it – but I probably will.”
– Bruce Springsteen, from “Glory Days.”
No leaves, no sun, no snow, No-vember.
Cold dreary days arrive after the colorful leaves have fallen. Watching a single oak leaf spiral down to the forest floor recalls how that football spiraled in a perfect arc in seeming slow motion before a raucous crowd under the glow of stadium lights at our high school Friday night football games.
High school football traditions are a perfectly timed to an all-too-brief colorful season of ephemeral beauty that stalls like an offensive drive with a failed fourth down attempt. November wind and rain tear down the colorful leaves like so many hand-painted spirit banners and all the promise of gridiron glory which began on sweltering, summer-green practice fields ends when early snow squalls erase the white lines painted on countless fields of glory.
I enjoyed watching my sixteen year-old son, Cody and his teammates thread their way through the yellow, orange, red and maroon helmets of opposing teams’ defenses. Following the fleeting Friday football season is akin to watching brilliant leaves blaze brightest just before the fall. Sports often provide perfect metaphors for life. In autumn, the reverse is also true; life – or more accurately “death” – provides apt metaphors for the November end of the high school football season.
The boys of autumn hang-up their pads long before the college bowl season and the mid-winter NFL playoffs. Their locker room is a forlorn place of discarded athletic tape, whiteboard plays and fading echoes of the crowd outside. It reminds me of an exposed hornets’ nest I found where black and yellow pinstriped wasps clamored futilely over the spoiled remains an entire summer’s achievement. The paper globe once packed like a hometown stadium lay shredded awaiting the coming snow. A few cold lingering wasps remained poised to sting in defense of their once proud home, their season over.
This year, our promising Kearsarge “Cougars” clung to a 5-0 record at mid season before being tackled mid-stride with tough back to back losses on the road. Their final overall record of 7-2 earned them third place in the Division IV playoffs when the first faint hint of snow was in the air. The close State Semi-Final game ended with a heart-breaking last minute loss to the talented Hanover “Marauders.” For our seniors playing in their last football game, a long ride ends abruptly. I remember those same seniors as 130-pound eighth graders. I cherish the image of the team before their final game, standing on the sideline facing the American flag with helmets cradled under their arms during the National Anthem. Great kids, they played well. Their season is over.
Autumn is introspection – beautiful and bittersweet - a nostalgic time to reminisce about old friends, youthful innocence and former glory days. Incredibly, my son and his high school football teammates seem to understand all that. Football season is just that: merely a season. It is rarely a lifetime even if the memories might last that long.