I love football. Like, I really love football….feel it in my bones, chill bumps on my arms, screaming at the field, bleeding burnt orange…..love football.
Remember the little girl from Remember the Titans? Not only is it one of my family’s favorite shows, but little blond curly-haired passionate Sheryl Yoast, played by Hayden Panettiere, is my spirit animal.
As I started to prepare this weekend for my first college football game of my sixth (yes sixth!) season with Fox Sports, I had a “going back to school” feeling. Yes, I’m always excited about football….but for the last 10 years since I’ve been covering the sport, it’s also work. Going back to football means summer is over, family time is shorter, and more time away from home. My husband kindly reminded me how much I love it once I get started. He was right, but still…
Then I got on a call with my producer for this show I’ll be hosting on Friday night at Fox Sports Southwest here in Dallas. Texas High School Football days. It is a HUGE production featuring 10 schools from around the state to showcase what Texas football is really all about. As we went through the rundown, we started talking about those Friday Night Lights. That’s when it hit me. My love of football started way beyond when I hit the 40 acres of the University of Texas….it started in Lubbock.
Do you remember what high school was like for you? I do. It was the best of times and the worst of times. It was that mix of still being under your parents’ roof, but also realizing that life wasn’t always going to be that easy. It was fun and it was incredibly hard. I wouldn’t go back for the world….but I would go back for those Friday nights.
There wasn’t a lot going on in Lubbock, (I know-insert joke here), but football was a religion. We talked about that big game all week. I remember when my older sister cheered for our high school, Monterey, and how exciting it was to get ready for game night. We all went and ate barbecue pregame. Then we drove down to the stadium where streamers lined the road all the way to the field. It was the sound of the band as you got out of the car; seeing the cheerleaders you idolized; the football players and their pristine uniforms….they were the coolest of the cool.
In a packed stadium, for every game, this is where I grew to love football. Crosstown rivalries like Monterey vs Coronado at Lowery Field, playoff games at Texas Tech (Jones AT&T Stadium) against the big powerhouses of Abilene High School and Odessa Permian. My two sisters and I both ended up cheering on that field, and my little brother played on the same field a few years later. We didn’t win any championships, and at times we weren’t that good. But those Friday nights will forever be a part of us.
I’ve gone on to work in Austin, Abilene, Dallas, and Oklahoma. I’ve been to high school football games across the state of Texas and college football games across the nation. I can honestly say, that there is nothing like football in West Texas: Odessa, Midland, Abilene, Lubbock. If you have not been to one – go now. It doesn’t matter if the team is 0-10. The same passionate fans whose kids graduated 30 years ago will be there to cheer on their team. Because there, it’s more than a school, or family, or just for fun; it’s a way of life. I’m so glad I grew up in West Texas where I could experience those Friday nights. Tomorrow night on Fox Sports Southwest we are going to do our best to capture what that means and bring it to you. I hope you will watch!