So much more than just a game

Published 12:58 am Saturday, August 13, 2011

It’s that time of the year when we as a region will become even more focused on our Southern obsession – football.

Rationally, it makes no sense to pour the amount of money we do into a game we play for 10 weeks. But here in Alabama, it’s so much more than those 10 weeks of regular-season play.

Compare Covington County’s communities with nearby cities where allegiances are divided between public and private school teams. Without a doubt, communities that have one team to rally around look more prosperous and progressive.

Because rallying around a team also means supporting other programs in a school system, and that helps build a great community.

This year’s AHS Football Hall of Fame inductees reminded us how important that 10-week sport is to our community.

Harris Rabren appears still to be haunted by a loss in 1973 to John Carroll High School in state championship game at Legion Field. It was Don Sharpe’s first year at the Bulldog helm. The sick feeling Rabren had after that game was palpable in the room as he described the loss last night.

But this he knows.

“The effect that team had on the younger players, was unbelievable. The whole community was revived, and the community came together as one in way not seen before and maybe not since,” he recalled.

It’s at theme those who played for Sharpe talk about over and over again: Oneness.

When Tim Nall was inducted, he told the crowd the rest of Rabren’s story.

“There’s something Harris didn’t tell you about that championship game against John Carroll,” Nall said.

“I was in the 8th grade, but I went to the game.”

On the way to the game, he said, the players’ bus had to stop to inform a player, Mark Williams, that his mother had died.

“He still competed in that game,” Nall said. “It made an impression on me. That’s character-building.

“Mark wasn’t being disrespectful,” Nall said. “He was fulfilling his mother’s wish and being there for his teammates.”

Richard Robertson remembered that his former teammate at Ralph Bunche High School, inductee Fred Crittenden, also was there for his teammates.

Looking at the crowd, which included all of this year’s Bulldog team, he said, “Boys, you say you can’t get a ride to practice? That’s no excuse. This man would walk from Rose Hill to play.”

There’s so much more to it than the game. And then there is the game.

“There’s no such thing as a practice game,” Rabren said to this year’s team. “Win it. Beat ‘em as bad as you can.”

Yep, I think we’re ready for some football.