“And there’s a flag on the play. Let’s wait and see what the official’s ruling is…looks like it’s the Wiggly Arm penalty…”
There’s laughter from both sides of the bleachers as the white-hat official picks up the football and marches down the field. “Back in Black” by AC-DC fills the silence. I turn down the volume knob and announce, “The penalty, called against the visiting Custer Wildcats, will give our Red Cloud team an automatic first down at about the 42-yard line. Or is that the 47?”
At halftime, a referee tromped up the wooden stairs to the press box with a smile and a small plastic card filled with small referees performing every penalty’s signal. “Here you go.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, during these fifteen minutes of halftime, don’t forget to eat: you’re surrounded by food! Don’t miss our sophomores in concessions, Jaden, Aaron and who is that… oh, Jessica, selling the best pickles this side of the Missouri, and don’t forget to thank Brother B by his pick-up, our unsung concessions hero!”
He hates it when I do that, covering his face with his baseball cap. “You can try to double your dollar – Ranita and Leah could sell you an arm’s length of 50-50 tickets for $5 at the 50. Just two of our terrific juniors here tonight.” Classic rock echoes into the hills and the sun sets behind the yellow cottonwoods; the whistle blows for the second half.
“Yet another tackle by senior linebacker Kenny Tiller, he seems to be everywhere today – oh wait, he is – he’s also our starting center! I’ll tell you this, folks – these two guys, Kenny and Damien, their success is no fluke in this game – they were in the weight room all summer, and it’s paying off!”
“THERE YOU GO, GARRETT!” Definitely Aaron, Kenny’s dad. Proud would be an understatement. I give Aaron a thumbs up.
“And after that gain of nine yards, it will be a Custer 2nd down – one yard to go.”
“Ooof. Red Cloud player down on the play – that’s senior Reeve Strong Dog – the best sketcher I’ve seen, a real artist, I mean really, you tell him to draw it and he can… and here comes ‘The Beast’ onto our field, Athletic Director Christian McGhee, who’s left his one year old daughter on the sideline. Good thing we’re not suiting her up today – Custer would never catch her! And Reeve’s up on his feet again as we get ready for a Custer first down at the Red Cloud 16 yard line. Let’s put our hands together: Stop ‘em here!”
“Time out called on the field here, a perfect chance to turn our attention to our first-down chain gang in their stylin’ orange vests – That’s veteran Lakȟóta teacher Roger White Eyes and his wife Vita, the study hall queen. They’ve been working here longer than I’ve been alive – along with Lakȟóta Spirituality teacher and cross-country coach Russ Cournoyer – but he’s having a hard time keeping up today, I can see him huffin’ and puffin’ down there…”
The whistle blows. Time in.
“And while I’m thinking of it…. oh, there’s a 15-yard pickup from number 32 for a Custer first down…. while I’m thinking of it, we’re really proud of our sophomore cross-country runner Sierra Myers. She here today? Well, if you see her, give her a high five – she’s going to state next week…and there’s number 32, following a few good blocks for a Custer touchdown, three minutes and forty seconds left in the third quarter.”
“They just can’t catch him today! That’s number 1, Randall Long Soldier on the carry, and it seems that the only Custer Wildcat player who can seem to get him down is their sideline, as he’s pushed out after another 23-yard gain, another Red Cloooooooud FIRST DOWN! Two minutes left in the fourth quarter of this conference game” The PA echoes in the hills and applause pitter-patters below.
My eyes on the sideline, there’s a few Custer parent grimaces and one of their players turns around, gesturing wildly at the press box, pointing at the scoreboard with two hands and clapping his helmet in some indiscernible combination of exasperation and disgust. Fourth quarter. Visitor: 34. Red Cloud: 20.
Apparently he was yelling, “SCOREBOARD! LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD!”
It was too windy. I couldn’t hear. And even if I could, it wouldn’t much matter. I’m calling this game like I see it, and wherever I look, I see all my favorite people. So I’m sorry not sorry. They gave me the microphone, and I’m going to celebrate every good play and player of the home team, on or off the field, every single one a gift on this autumn evening.