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One of those Friday football fanatics

IN retrospect, I guess I was the one who was the odd one in this conversation, but at the time, the woman's comment hit me as strange.

Here we were, two dozen adult volunteers, spending our free time planning for the upcoming season's football games.

We were meeting because we were the parent and community volunteers that make up the high school athletic boosters.

Our mission — to raise money to support the athletic programs at South Charleston High School.

"I don't ever go to the football games," the volunteer, a soccer mom, said.

"WHAT?" I wondered aloud? "You don't go to football games?" I was incredulous. "What do you do on Friday nights? Why would anyone do anything on Friday evenings during fall other than go to their favorite high school's football games?"

Of course, I knew that not everyone attended high school football games.

On big games when my beloved Black Eagles drew a capacity crowd at old Oakes Field, there were no more than 5,000 or so fans there.

With a population in South Charleston of 13,000 and 8,000 in Dunbar, the two communities that feed students to SCHS, surely everyone couldn't have been there.

But still, Friday night football has been such a major part of my life — for nearly all of my life — that it is strange to consider doing anything else.

Sure, there were years when I didn't go to high school football games, but that was pretty much only when I was a student at Marshall University.

At that time, besides my studies and my young family, I was devoting my cheering energies to a long-struggling Thundering Herd football team.

I realized how bad I had the bug last football season, when my job kept me in Morgantown late into the afternoon on a Friday when my Black Eagles were scheduled to play at Spring Valley, an hour west of South Charleston.

"If I hurry," I told myself, "I can be there by midway through the first quarter."

But no, I decided I don't have to go to every away game. So I got home and leisurely walked the dog, then searched for an audio broadcast.

My web search of Huntington radio stations turned up nothing. I turned to Twitter and Facebook for game updates, finding few.

I texted a couple of parents I knew to be in the stands. While they replied with an updated score now and then, the texts provided no context as to what was happening on the field.

Gradually, I found myself becoming frantic wanting to know game details.

I came to the realization that I was too involved and had invested too much time and energy over the years in this high school team to miss an away game again, no matter how far.

Someone, somewhere has studied this phenomenon of seemingly normally sane and reasonably intelligent people fully committing their time and resources toward this crazy passion of football, I'm sure.

While maybe not everyone is bitten by this bug, I obviously have much company. And its not just high school football.

Why else would several thousand of us Herd fans drive a few hours and then stand in the cold pouring rain at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia, cheering on our Herd in hopes of an upset over the Hokies, at least by the third overtime.  

While another person may have been miserable in the conditions, I loved every minute of it (except for the final score).

So the addiction persists. And I'm not seeking treatment.

No doubt, I pay for this affliction. The Marshall season tickets and one or two road games per year are pricey, but they are a reward I provide myself whether I deserve it or not. I pay for the high school games mainly by hours and hours of volunteering and no rest on Friday nights.

But win or lose, that feeling of excitement that radiates through me and the rest of the crowd every time my favorite high school or college team runs onto the field is amazing.

Silly, I know. But I love it.

Merritt is Daily Mail editorial page editor. He may be reached at 304 348-4802 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @ekmerritt.


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