Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Football Game in the Fall Is a Mirror of the Times

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Football Game in the Fall Is a Mirror of the Times

Article excerpt

On a sunny, cool Saturday I drove an hour or so into Ohio, at the invitation of some old high school classmates, to witness a football match between my old home town team and the team of the high school of a formerly smaller neighboring town.

The scene was about the same as it would have been 50 years before. It resembled a sort of down-market version of the high school football rally scene from "The Dead Poet's Society." The stadium, unroofed and without lights, for want of money -- put down to "tradition" -- was full on both sides of the field with cheering fans from both towns. (I noticed that the ones I knew strangely all had gray hair.)

The setting of the field was different. It used to be that in back of the visitors' side of the field were tenements, along an unpaved street called Ramcat Alley, inhabited largely by African- Americans. On a hill above the field was still a nice house, with lawn chairs out in front, from which the residents could see the game free.

Off one end, where the flagpole stands, what used to be the Imperial Glass Co., a major employer in the town, had been replaced by a gravel parking lot and a modest strip mall. The other glass companies, the steel mill across the bridge on the other side of the river and the enameled-ware company where my father had made most of his career were also gone, as are most of the people of the town.

*

I could see that the school system had retained its traditional set of priorities, even though responsibility for its finances has been assumed by the state of Ohio. The football uniforms looked good. The majorettes and cheerleaders were still charmingly decked out in brief, shiny costumes. The band had uniforms and instruments, paid for by the band mothers selling hot dogs ($1.25 each) and coffee (50 cents a cup), even though they still don't play very well. (It's early in the school year, I note.) My musician grandfather's test of a band was, if it is impossible to tell what it is playing from behind, it isn't any good.

The game was pretty good football. The two teams were reasonably equally matched, even though in the end my team lost by 19 points. …

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