For the first time in nearly twenty-five years I attended a high school basketball game last night. The epic battle was between two large suburban schools, the Panthers and the Cruisers. My niece is a trainer for the Cruisers and we thought we would pop in for her sake. I was surprised at what I experienced.
We entered first for the JV game that was a well-fought contest ending in a victory for the Cruisers by two points. You could tell both sides wanted the game. The gym was half-empty but I thought that would change as we closed in on the varsity game. To my surprise, that didn't happen. What I witnessed was not what I remembered from my high school days.
I initially felt the anticipation of the event. It was the same feelings I remember 'back in the day'. This would be great, I thought. The game was a mismatch from the start with the Panthers ending the first quarter leading 22 - 5. Neither team was overly athletic or powerful but it was evident the Panthers played a much better team game. The referees were typical high school caliber but at least they let them play not calling every ticky-tack foul. And, also to my surprise it wasn't a 'three-point' fest as many games have become.
But, to an extent I was saddened by the lack of participation in what little crowd attended. These two schools likely have 800 to 1000 students attending each and they couldn't muster enough to fill half an average size gymnasium. There was no football team gathered, no wrestlers, no volleyballers, no significant group of anyone. The crowd seemed disinterested in the game itself with very little cheering. The only loud noises were from the cheerleaders who led no cheers for the crowd. The home band did not even stay in place for the end of the game.
I attended a smaller school from a six team Catholic league. Each school had a grudging respect/hatred for everyone else in the league. The games were hotly contested by both the teams and the crowd. Often you could not hear yourself think because it was so loud. Each game was an event not to be missed with nearly everyone wearing their colors. I saw virtually no one at last nights game wearing their school colors or emblems for either side. I guess from a league that literally has thirty schools there can't be rivalries among them all.
I realize this was only one game on a single Friday night, at a single suburban school and I shouldn't take it as a blanket statement of schools in this day and age, but the excitement that wasn't there was sure a disappointment.