Sunday, August 30, 2009

Friday Night Lite

The opening of football season, Milan, MI. Friday night, August 29th. (photo by Lon Horwedel)

There’s just something about Friday night.

I’m not exactly sure what, but there is something.

Maybe it’s the way it makes you feel, like it’s the start of something special, the beginning of long stretch of fun; all there in front of you, exciting and full of potential. Kind of like the month of June, only it happens every week, not just once a year.

Friday night is a time to relax; a time to breathe; a time to stay up late, go to the movies or out to dinner.

Where I grew up, Friday night also was a time for the whole town to reunite on a crisp autumn night at a small-town stadium in the middle of a cornfield to watch high school football. Not that anybody ever really watched the game, apart from maybe the coaches and parents.

Young boys were too busy tossing Nerf footballs behind the bleachers emulating the players on the field. Older boys were too busy hanging out in packs, bragging about their sexual prowess to one another through their gaudy orthodonture.

Old men stood along the fence and complained about the coach. Old women waddled up the bleacher steps before settling their squishy bottoms into the comfort of a foam stadium seat emblazoned with team name and colors; ready to take in the action of the game, or at least watch their nerdy nephew performing with the band at halftime.

Little girls were nowhere to be found, as if they didn’t exist, home with their mommies. Older girls were hanging in packs like the boys; snapping gum and giggling; totally ignoring the poor slobs on the field whose only mission in life was to try and impress just one cute high school girl with his on-field heroics.

The week of behaving in home or in class or at the drive-thru window at McDonalds had taken its toll. F-bombs flew freely and easily between teenage boys and girls as if it were the word “the” or “if.” No sentence was immune from insertion, no matter how short. Sometimes it was the sentence - just one simple word, effective only with proper inflection - and only on a Friday night.

Twenty-five years later, much remains the same.

Teenage girls still snap their gum and giggle. The boys still hang in packs, bragging though their acne-scarred faces about sex they never had.

Lights still burn in the sky over small town bleachers barely taller than corn rows in towns called Milan, Clinton, Manchester and Saline.

Young men strapped in helmets and pads, thump their chests and bang their heads as they prepare to impress gum-snapping girls who aren’t even watching them play. 

All on Friday nights.

Every fall I’m one year older - one year closer to becoming that old guy standing by the fence complaining about the coach. But the giggling girls never age. The pimple-faced boys still brag to their friends and cuss like sailers. The fifth graders behind the bleachers still throw perfect Nerf spirals that bounce harmlessly into the corn. 

Fat-bottomed women still waddle up the bleacher steps to get a glimpse of their nerdy nephews playing in the band and chest-thumping boys still strap themselves into hard plastic helmets and oversized shoulder pads, hoping to cream someone in the name of unrequited love.

The lights eventually dim on Friday nights. 

Sooner or later, the old man leaves his home by the fence and heads back to his pickup truck. 

The oversized woman waddles down from the bleacher steps and heads for home.

The chest-thumping players limp out of the locker room clad in varsity jackets, hoping someone, anyone, but their parents is waiting outside the door. 

In the darkness of the parking lot, the giggling girl and the pimple-faced boy awkwardly swap spit through their braces as she repeatedly swats his hand off her unbuttoned jeans.

He’s looking to go all the way, but it’s not going to happen ... 

Not on this Friday night.


  1. I wished that I had Friday nights like that when I was in high school. When I would go to games like that in Carolina, there would be a great whoosing sound, at all the things that I missed like the Friday night games in high school.

    Good story.

  2. Big Mark,


    As a news photographer the past 25-years, I've gotten a front row seat to what often feels like the world's biggest anthropological study.