Sitting in the stands at halftime during the Brookwood-Grayson high school football game this past Friday night, I was reminded of a conversation I had more than a decade ago.
Sitting next to a coach who was visiting on his team's off week, we watched as the bands played during halftime. The coach, unaccustomed to being out of the locker room for halftime festivities, was blown away by the talent that took the field while the players were away. "Man, these guys are good," he gushed, and more than once.
His response was so genuine and excited that I can't help but laugh when I think about it. The tough, gruff coach turning into his own version of a cheerleader. That coach wasn't used to seeing the halftime performances, but he was spot on with his analysis.
This past Friday, I was impressed by the Halloween-themed routine put on by the Grayson band, which even made the Brookwood crowd laugh with its costumes and theatrical performance. It's hard not to smile when one of the band members is dressed like a banana.
And the Brookwood band was impressive as ever, turning in a great performance that included the levity that comes with the school's tradition of letting senior members wear crazy hats during the Senior Night routines.
It's not often I sit in the stands instead of the press box, but that perspective gave me a new appreciation for the overall Friday festivities. It's not just the good teams that stand out, or the many talented bands that entertain, but the overall experience that makes Gwinnett a great place to be on Friday nights.
From the pregame tailgating and touchdown club meals for parents and boosters, to the quaint traditions (at Brookwood, your blanket saves your seat, always has, always will), to the exuberant cheerleaders to the face-painted (and sometimes chest- and leg-painted) students, Friday nights are fun nights in the county.
Those who regularly attend high school games know the biggest contests are always the place to see and be seen. And the fun surrounding the games at North Gwinnett, for instance, has been described as a "carnival atmosphere."
This Friday marks the end of the regular season for Gwinnett's teams, meaning many programs will be done for the year. But many more will be moving on to the playoffs, where the show both on the field and off will continue.
If you haven't had a chance, take in a game over the next couple of weeks. For the regulars, take a step back and really soak in the atmosphere. And when you take it all in, I'll bet you'll be saying what that coach told me so many years ago: "Man, these guys are good."
E-mail Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.