Its nowhere cold enough to really feel like football weather, but the crash of helmets at practice and the almost audible sound of my nephews feet growing out of his cleats tells me that, despite what the thermometer says, its that time again.
Weeks of practice and training for the Philipsburg- Osceola Mounties finally will give way to the real thing Friday. No more scrimmages. No more wondering whether this will be a year for the record books or one that were just glad the boys tried hard and didnt give up. Mountie football kicks off at Line Mountain at 7 p.m. Thats when it all gets turned over to kids in blue and white jerseys.
Mountie athletics is nothing to sneeze at. Weve given players to good colleges. Weve even seen some break through to professional sports. But maybe more importantly, weve seen kids parlay what they learned on the field into tenacity and team-building in later life off the gridiron. And then theres the pride that comes from knowing youve done your best and made your family and friends proud. Trophies and game balls are great, but the sheepish grin on a 6-foot-tall 17- year-old as he walks across the grass with his mom on Senior Night, thats priceless.
But sometimes, the people who need to learn those lessons about sportsmanship and whats important arent the ones on the field; theyre in the stands. Winning or losing isnt just their lesson. Its ours, too. How are we going to handle the season? How are we going to look at the scoreboard? How are we going to measure the other players, the other coaches, the other fans? And maybe even out of the stadium, how will we behave in, for instance, a school board meeting? Years of division and animosity regarding P-Os administrative leadership has been bubbling over at recent board meetings.
I like to think the P-O community teaches its kids that how you play is as important as the score. I want to believe the lesson is one that coaches teach at practice, that parents reinforce at home, and that fans remember at the games, and that everyone remembers the difference between a high school game and the Steelers taking on the Ravens on Monday Night Football.
The football culture of Centre County has been nationally vilified recently. Maybe the best way to reclaim our honor is to build on it from the school districts up. Show up, play fair, celebrate successes, identify weaknesses and work on them as a team, as a community. Lets play ball.
Lori Falce writes weekly about the Rush Township/Philipsburg area. Send comments to email@example.com.