Friday Night Lights Help Ease The Pain Of Ferguson

ferguson mcclure high school football

I’ve learned one thing above all in a few years of high school sports coverage – football reigns supreme.

All other sports dim in comparison. It’s the feather in the cap of each local news outlet. When autumn enters, the stage lights up with teenagers who dream of state titles.

In Ferguson, Missouri, plenty other things pulled a community apart. Maybe not apart but, in some way, the fragmentation of out-of-towners, protestors and media distracted from a place and made it a spectacle.

Michael Brown is dead. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. But when I saw that the St. Louis Rams allowed McCluer High School’s team to use their practice facility, I thought of the teams.

In small towns, big cities and every location in between, the gridiron serves as a reminder of what community means.

It means unity among teenagers on the field. It means mentorship from the sidelines. It means support from cheerleaders, fans and boosters. There’s a structure there to deliver the greatest slice of Americana.

When the lights turn on, the world fades away for a few brief hours. Only the lights matter to many in those communities. The distractions are everywhere – and in a place like Ferguson – they can overwhelm.

Think of the trials and tribulations a teenage boy encounters. They face peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, good crowds and bad. On a misty day, they lose interest in studies and fall asleep in class. Grades are juggled, friends are made – and lost – and the human experiment becomes a daily routine in its first stages.

Boys take the first step to manhood in many ways. It’s a difficult era in the lifecycle.

In sports coverage, I learned something about the uneven ground youngsters tread. Whenever a freshman or sophomore would succeed, the next year would bring hype. Think of how good he’ll be this year, fans would remark.

After a few underclassmen turned upperclassmen, a reply stuck out to me. Some quit, some succeeded and some lost interest:

Wait until after they have a car and a girlfriend.

It’s a topsy-turvy time for these kids. I couldn’t imagine the pain the youngsters at McCluer dealt with. When I saw them – these young athletes yearning for routine – the thought of restored normalcy popped in my mind.

These kids need to play. They need a kickoff and a halftime with everything in between.

ferguson mcclure football

That’s where reporters, fans and players sit in the same boat. We all need the games because it takes us away from everything. Tired jobs and a low grade on an algebra pop quiz. Breakups and late hours. Money problems and prom dates.

It all vanishes when the field is mowed, lined and ready for action.

As soon as those kids hit the turf, Friday night becomes Friday night again.

I watched the FOX Sports short film on McCluer’s football team in one of the most trying times they’ll face. They wanted normalcy. A ball and pads would do.

Comets defensive back Kevin Spraggins III said it best during the six-some-minute video. He wanted to play for a simple reason.

“Knowing nothing in this world matters anymore.”

There might not be justice for Michael Brown and Ferguson. The protestors may never find satisfaction and the world might turn the way at the same speed for the St. Louis suburb. Life stops when the lights go on. That’s justice. It will never change.

The memories of overmatched blowouts, cold playoff games and box scores with less than five completions flooded the mind when Spraggins spoke.

He’s right – nothing in the world matters when Friday night football is played in Ferguson and anywhere else on the map. After a while, you look around at our world and wonder if maybe that means it’s one of the things that ever mattered.

When the scoreboard hits triple zeroes, everyone goes home and finds their woes where they left them.

But for a few hours, kids escaped a place infiltrated with controversy and anger. The ball kicked off, McCluer fell 34-6 and no one lost.

The Comets snuck away from their community just long enough for their community to find them.

Related: Darren Wilson May Not Be Charged For Michael Brown’s Murder Until Next Year (Smoking Section)

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