Every game day as the parade of BMWs, SUVs and police cars roll into the parking lot, the air fills with nervousness and excitement.
A few hours before the game, the town congregates at the popular Crow’s Nest, a local diner where the avid football moms and pops chatter over hearty medium-rare burgers and eggplant parms.
In my town of Hackensack, high school football is a huge. My husband was a high school football player (MVP in left benching), so for us, attending high school football live in person is both a treat and a tradition.
During the football season, we’d gather in the beaten up bleachers of Hackensack High School along with family decked out in matching blue and gold jerseys to cheer on the Comets with giant handmade posters. The crowd goes wild with every run-and-shoot offense.
The most revered football tradition is the Thanksgiving game, when Hackensack faces off with Teaneck. Apparently, that’s been an ongoing tradition since 1931*. The crowds would religiously gather at the Della Torre Field almost two hours before the game to secure their seats. Along the fence, there are placards bearing the name and number of each high school senior on the team.
In the pre-game ceremonies, the seniors who have toiled hard on the fields for their fans and beloved game are commemorated with individual player introductions, along with a hug from the head coach. Then school band kicks in their rendition of “We are the Titans” as the cheerleaders organize a pep rally with impressive flips in mid-air.
Local businesses like Napoli Pizza often sponsor the team luncheon with piping hot margherita pizzas, while the local grocer dishes out cartons of Gatorade. The Bergen county newspaper and local television stakes out in mid-field to catch action shots and interviews with the players and coach.
Over the years, the football tradition has grown on me. What used to be a predominately Caucasian crowd from the main streets of Prospect Avenue has grown to be an ethnically diverse audience of all backgrounds. In a sense, it reflects the changing demographics of our town and our nation. For us, high school football is not just about winning, but a chance to celebrate our community, as well as the talent, hard-work and dedication of the players that like football, symbolize the heart of the American dream.
*Amos, Darius. “From the Sidelines: Comets’ senior moments”, Hackensack Chronicle, December 1, 2010. Accessed March 27, 2012