Can it really be that time of year? That was the question I asked myself last Friday as I stepped out the back office door and heard the familiar sounds emanating from Richards Memorial Field.
It seems like just last week that I was preparing for a son’s July 9 wedding, and the 80-plus degree heat made it seem like I should be headed to a pool rather than a football scrimmage, but the calendar said it was time for the annual Hillsboro High School Fish Fry, so off toward the field I headed.
The trek to Richards Memorial is a familiar one. In fact, I’ve made it so many times that I’d rather not know the number. But this time it was for a reason different than any before. I was going to watch a grandson and a nephew play in the marching band.
How odd, I thought, how perceptions change with age.
Back in my school days I had the perception that band was for, well, I’m not really sure who, but someone different from me. Maybe a more accurate description would be that I thought it was for – although I didn’t know it at the time – someone who was not completely blinded by athletics like myself.
Oh, I tried my hand at the piano for one summer and the coronet another summer, but by the time I hit junior high I had decided playing an instrument wasn’t for me. And that’s another oxymoron, because these days I think it would be really cool to be able to sit down and entertain myself or some friends with a few strums on a guitar or pecks on a piano.
Anyway, it was surreal as I headed down the hill around Richards Memorial with a camera on my shoulder, as I have so many times, but for a completely different reason. I was not a reporter, or an athlete, or a sports fan. I was on a mission to take pictures of a grandson and nephew making their first foray onto Richards Memorial as members of the marching band.
How many times, I wondered, have I made the trek down that hill for other reasons.
From as early as I can remember, if there was a football game at Richards Memorial, I was likely there. My dad rarely missed taking me to a home football game from the time I was just a wee little guy. Then there were the Jaycees Junior Olympic track and field contests my dad put on at the field each year. I didn’t miss competing in one from the time I was 9 up until I was 18. Dad was a track official, so we went to lots of track events, too.
I played junior high football at Richards Memorial, attended every home game when I was in high school, ran who knows how many laps around that field in junior high and high school, track and often snuck down to it on Sunday afternoons to play pick-up football games – if someone didn’t run us off.
After a few year’s absence from Richards Memorial during college, I found myself heading back on a regular basis as a young sports reporter. At one point I went 13 years in a row and only missed covering one Hillsboro varsity football game. That was for a brother’s wedding rehearsal, and the game wasn’t at Richards Memorial.
I watched one son play a year of junior high and one year of high school football there, plus three years of soccer. I watched another son play football there in grades 7-12. Some of those games – both soccer and football – I was both a parent and a reporter.
And that’s not counting graduations, May Days, and any of a dozen other reasons I found a reason to head to Richards Memorial.
I had not been there as much the last four years. Oh, I made the occasional trip there to take a photo of something or see my wife when she was coaching the Hillsboro cheerleaders, but the games just weren’t the same after my youngest son graduated.
Then came last Friday – the first of what it appears will be five more years of autumn Friday trips to Richards Memorial, since grandson Evan is just an eighth-grader, but a member of the high school band.
Evan seems to really enjoy band, and it will be good to take in Friday night football games from a band parent’s perspective rather than as a football player’s parent.
Because, you see, a football game just wouldn’t be a football game without the band. They go hand in hand. Football without a band would be like baseball without a hot dog. There would be an important part of the game missing.
If you’ve read this column much, you likely know I’m a pretty big Ohio State football fan. Yet my favorite part of any Buckeye football game is when the band comes high-stepping onto the field. Unless it’s when the football team sings “Carmen Ohio” – to the band – after the game. Either one sends shivers down my spine.
What’s cool about this band thing is that my grandson is really doing nothing more than carrying on a family tradition. My dad was an official at Richards Memorial Field, I ran around it, my sons ran up and down it, and now Evan is marching on it.
Is there really any difference?
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.