Hallelujah and glory be, football has returned to the Kanawha Valley.
Starting Thursday night up on the hill in South Charleston and on the turf at University of Charleston Stadium, the gridiron games now have real stakes. On Fridays and Saturdays (and a Thursday or two) throughout the fall, championship hopes strengthen or wither with each game.
It’s fun to be a fan.
So, about that . . .
When I say it’s fun to be a fan, it should be fun for everyone — everyone in the stands, everyone in the room in front of the television, everyone at the sports bar or restaurant. So do ol’ Uncle Derek a favor when you go out to have your fun. Make sure you’re letting everyone else have fun, too.
Do you have that buddy you love having by your side … except for when he’s watching his favorite football team? You spend all week having a ball with his Dr. Jekyll, but you know that when he’s rocking his team’s colors for the big game, Mr. Hyde is the one cheering in the stands or in front of the screen.
(Well, maybe he’s cheering. Most of the time, he’s yelling. Or ranting. Or sulking. Or throwing something.)
Nothing kills a good vibe quicker than a bad fan. The attention is forced away from the game in front of everyone and onto the jerk causing the commotion.
And there are those folks who at least are self aware, who will admit, “if my team loses, you don’t want to be around me for the rest of the night.”
But why be that guy (or girl)? Why make it tough on everyone else who wants to enjoy the game. You might want to enjoy it in your own way, but that may drain the joy from others.
So no matter where you may be — a high school field, a college stadium or in front of a TV — remember you’re part of a crowd, not alone. Keep acting like a fool, and you will be, whether you want to or not.
On a serious note, while you’re gorging yourself on football over this long weekend, take some time to tear away from it on Sunday to watch an important documentary.
At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, the NFL Network will broadcast “Orangeburg,” a documentary on the “Orangeburg Massacre” of 1968. On Feb. 8 of that year, students at South Carolina State, a historically black college in Orangeburg, South Carolina, started a bonfire on campus in protest of a local bowling alley that did not allow African-Americans to enter.
South Carolina Highway Patrol officers fired into a group of 200 protesters, injuring 27 and killing three. One of those killed was football player Samuel Hammond.
The football coach at South Carolina State at the time of the incident was Oree Banks, who in 1977 would become the football coach at West Virginia State. When his players joined the campus protest movement, while other coaches might have pulled them back, Banks did not. According to a 2013 New York Times article, he believed change was coming in the United States and this was part of it.
The program highlights a significant point in the both the history of campus protests, one that came years before the Kent State shootings, and the quest for civil rights. It’s a good reason to turn off the football for a little while.