On Friday, my three youngest kids and I made a beeline south to take in the 2009 Shanley High "Deacons" homecoming game against the Central Cass High "Squirrels." Though we don’t have any football players or high school students in our family as of yet, we went out anyway in support of our school and to take part in an historical event. It was the first time in the 74-year history of Shanley varsity athletics that the school’s football team has had a "dedicated" home-field advantage. Every other Shanley homecoming game we’ve attended has taken place at a borrowed field, as has been the case for years and years.
It was a beautiful night, even though the skies had opened up with rain just minutes before game start-up time. The raindrops ceased right before kickoff, and from that point on, the night was clear and beautiful.
I’ll admit, I’m rather a fairweather fan when it comes to football. For example, my corner of the house stayed fairly quiet Sunday afternoon, unlike my husband’s, which shook and shimmied when Brett Favre helped bring the Vikes to victory. Football just isn’t my thing, but I’ll always remember Friday night’s game.
First, the Bishop said a prayer to bless the field and its players. You can rarely go wrong when an event begins in prayer. Following that was an acknowledgement of family members of Sid Cichy, coach of the team for thirty years and honoree by way of the new field’s name. Another of those who helped make it happen took a turn at the mic next. Shelly Ellig, a Fargo businessman, donated $1.2 million to the project — and he’s not even Catholic. Apparently, he felt called to do this for the greater good of the community. When he spoke, Ellig exuded sincere joy at being part of something beyond himself. What a great feeling it must have been to know he’d helped turn the field from mere dream to real life.
Despite my fickle attitude toward football, I was able to appreciate Friday night because it was about more than the game itself. It wasn’t just about a beautiful new football and soccer field of which to boast. It was about investing in the future, giving the kids who will play there for generations to come a sense of pride and community. A lot of money goes into these projects — money that some feel could be better spent elsewhere. And to some degree, I understand that. But I also got that the field was spelling out something more than "S is for Shanley" in its middle. It was spelling out "H is for Hope" and "B is for Believe." We believe in our younger generations, and we place our hope in them.
Following kickoff, my daughter ran around giggling with her friends, who’d spray-painted their hair red to show support of the Deacons; the homecoming court flashed their smiles and crowns; and I spent most of the evening trying to keep my charged-up little boys from clearing out the bleachers with their little-boy antics as I tried conversing with a friend. We ate hotdogs and popcorn and crunched M&Ms and watched the sun go down and the field lights glowing brighter. A vitality pervaded, and I couldn’t help but feel gratitude toward those who had given up purchases of a more immediately gratifying flavor to benefit one school’s youth athletic program.
Some people get that it’s not just about today; that what we’re doing here is really not about us but about the younger ones we are guiding to take our places, who will then guide the even younger generations years down the line. Life is moving forward, just as it should be.
And by the way, the Deacons won! Go Deacons!