Drive through Washington, Missouri on Friday night in the fall. You will see light resonate from three places in the town. One, of course, is Wal-Mart. The other two places are the football fields of the two local high schools in Washington, Saint Francis Borgia and Washington. The field at Borgia is the field I care about, though. As you may have guessed I went to high school there and I played football for them. If you were wondering, no, I was not a star. However, that does not change the way I feel when I return to that field. Whether the stands are completely empty on a Wednesday or full of screaming fans on a Friday night, this place evokes an excitement and energy in me that few places do. The field at Borgia now looks quite a bit different than it did when I played on it. The grass has been replaced with artificial turf, the track is finally regulation size, and the press box is new, big, and sparkling blue. Still, though, standing on the field before a game I recently went back to see made me realize that, even though I wouldn’t say this about many things, I would go back for another game in front of all those fans.
If you make your way to Borgia’s football field on an autumn night in fall, the first thing you’ll see is cars. Tons of them, so many that, in fact, you most likely won’t find a parking spot unless you get there a couple hours early. If you are lucky enough to find a spot, you’ll find plenty of people grilling burgers and hotdogs in the parking lot. You’ll also hear the band blaring away, trying to get the fans ready for the game. The field is above the high school but below the Knights of Columbus hall, almost in the middle of what is cleverly referred to as the K.C. hill. Naturally you will have to walk some stairs. When you get to the field the most eye-catching structure is the shiny new press box. Its usually filled with announcers and writers wolfing down a bunch of food before the game. The place to keep your eye on, though, is the student section. It is not all that big but it’s always packed full of people and loud no matter what. There are tons of chants and cheers that have been yelled for years that continue to fill the air. Of course the loudest cheers are reserved for when the team takes the field. Don’t plan on having any conversations at this particular time; it’s not just to loud to hear, it’s too loud to form thoughts. My favorite part of the setting, at least since I have been out of high school, is the concession stand. They make good food, and the best part is that it’s cheap. To this point, I have described a space through which many people move and with which many interact. The most important part of this setting, though, and the part that makes it a place for me, is, of course, the field.
The field is used for a game. On Fridays in the fall a bunch of teenagers go out and play as if nothing else matters. In truth, I suppose it matters very little. As I move through college and life that fact becomes more and more apparent. That is why the emotions I feel simply from stepping on this field, whether empty or roaring with fans, are all the more amazing to me. I cannot help it. A cool evening breeze hits me in the face and a chill literally goes down my spine. I want to run, I want to hit, I want to compete. It is fall, it’s Friday, and, at least for those few seconds, it feels like it’s time for football. And if given the chance, even knowing now that it’s really not all that important, I would go out there and play like nothing else mattered once again. That is why the football field at Saint Francis Borgia is a place to me. This place can take me, a relatively mature adult, want to be a kid again.
For many people the football field at Borgia is just a space, devoid of emotion. For the track team it is just what happened to be in the center of the track they ran on. For visiting fans it’s just one of the many fields they went and watched their sons play on. For those who never played football maybe it’s just a place to go see a couple hours of entertainment. To the people who played there each week, though, and most certainly to me it is a place that still brings about strong emotions. It gets me excited and energized. It reminds me of all the fun I had. I remember my friend Tyler Filla, who died less than a year after graduation, running down the field even after his helmet had been ripped off, with no regard for his own safety, because at that moment nothing else mattered to him. When I’m there it somehow makes me feel like those meaningless high school football games are once again the only important things. I’m an ignorant teenager again. And it’s a feeling would not trade for anything.