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The game remains the same

The sharp tick of the snare drum marked our entrance into the stadium every Friday night. Our first step initiated the rolling bass licks of the cadence and we all marched forward with pride. The edges of the stadium were littered with cheering fans as the bands took their place in the ritualistic setting of high school football. I always looked forward to those nights.

Whether the game was played in the last heated days of summer or the coldest days of winter -- the spirit remained the same. The final days of summer found us (the devoted band members) sweating patiently in our band uniforms. We waited anxiously for halftime to pass so that we could remove our coats. Our perception of the band jacket changed when the temperatures dropped.

We all spent our time huddled together for warmth. Drummers tried desperately to keep their hands warm in between songs and horn players kept warm air flowing through their instruments so they would remain in tune.

We were an extension of the cheerleaders and another thriving symbol of our school's honor and pride. I remember waiting patiently in the stands for the next touchdown -- the next opportunity to grab my saxophone and play the school's fight song. The game was different then because my mind was focused mainly on the halftime show. I struggled to remember all the moves and notes without choking on my doubts. I paid little attention to the game itself. My mind was bent solely on representing my school and boosting the morale of our team.

My perception of the game of football has changed throughout the years as my role in the environment has evolved. My role has evolved from a member of the high school band to an alumnus and spectator to a photographer on the sidelines for the local newspaper.

The sights and sounds of a hometown football game changed greatly after graduation -- at least they did in my eyes. I have attended few football games at my alma mater since my graduation. I found myself losing sight of the connections that once bound my blood to the painted bleachers of the stadium. Call it melodramatic if you wish. My attendance was lacking because I found no purpose in my presence at the game, but my chosen profession has given me a new purpose.

As a photographer I have a newfound role in the guts and glory of high school football. I perch on the sidelines with my camera and wait for the perfect play to present itself. The cheers from the crowd still sound just as sweet, the boisterous band music still lifts my heart and the rhythmic clapping of the cheerleaders still embodies the pride of high school football.

The faces may change from school to school, but the game remains the same. Coaches still ramble along the edges of the sideline. Bands still battle to discover who can play the best song. Cheerleaders from each team still run to greet each other at halftime. Fans still cheer when their team scores and boo when a bad call is made.

My mind still wanders back to the days when I marched into a stadium of screaming fans and took my place with the band in the stands. I still wish I could return to a time when drums and horns mixed well with the sound of hundreds of people clapping and cheering -- but I am glad to still be a part of the Friday night magic known as high school football.