School spirit abounds
during this time of year
Monday, September 30, 2013 3:33 AM
Prepare yourself. Another maroon-and-gold-laced article is coming your way. Don't worry; this one will also contain substantial amounts of teal, silver, purple and black.
Within the next two weeks my alma mater of Fillmore Central and my future alma mater of the University of Minnesota will celebrate their homecomings. By the time you read this column, the Golden Gophers will have either won or lost against the Iowa Hawkeyes and I will either be roaring with school spirit or with frustration. The Hawkeyes are a worthy foe and it's always exciting to see who wins Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig.
I was fortunate enough to be standing on the TCF Bank Stadium field, less than 10 yards away, as MarQueis Gray scored the game-winning touchdown against the Hawkeyes in 2011. I will not soon forget how crazy the stadium went and how the fans had charged the field after the game had ended. A mob of people and players crowded the middle of the field and rising above the mass of heads I could see him - Floyd.
To see such a time-honored trophy in the midst of a victorious and glorious collegiate atmosphere made me wonder if perhaps I had stepped into a dream of some sort. I had the same feeling when the Wisconsin Badger football team ran over to our goal post the same year. I suddenly found myself standing five feet away from Paul Bunyan's axe. Of course, I didn't appreciate the moment because we had just lost and the Badgers were mocking us by pretending to chop down our goal post.
These experiences didn't occur during homecoming, but they are examples of the kind of tradition and nostalgia rediscovered so easily during homecoming week.
My first taste of homecoming week occurred when I was still attending school in Little Falls. As the boyhood home of Charles Lindbergh, the public school I attended in the town had taken the moniker of "the Flyers." The logo was a picture of Charles Lindbergh with his aviator garb on. Lovely.
When I was in elementary school, homecoming meant a week full of activities we wouldn't normally be allowed to indulge in otherwise (extra recess!?!). Thursday nights would always entail me scrounging around to the bottom of my dresser drawers trying to find something purple that did not have a Vikings logo on it. I would show up to school on Spirit Day with a black sweater while everyone else had beads, pins, ribbons, jerseys and face paint. I would protest, "Black is a school color!" Not good enough for the school spirit police.
The trend continued through middle school. The highlight of the week was the homecoming parade where candy was collected capitalist-style. I didn't attend the sporting events and I liked not doing that.
Once I moved to Fillmore Central, my involvement in homecoming changed drastically. I suddenly found myself not only going to sporting events, but performing on the field with the band. I acquired more school colors, but was still woefully deficient in showing school spirit. Like elementary school, homecoming week was full of indulgences that were not normally allowed (recess!?!).
Certain traditions during high school were foolish and caused unnecessary stress, but all of it got caught up in the hype under the lights. I'm talking about the marching band show. While in formation, it was finally acceptable to wear all black during homecoming. Crisp accents of silver and teal made wearing the uniform of Fillmore Central High School even better. By the end of my junior year, I was already looking forward to wearing the uniform of the University of Minnesota.
I had grown up loving to watch football on Saturdays and Sundays and feeling the atmosphere of those environments through the television. I felt rejuvenated by the energy that came during the autumn sport.
How surreal it was in 2011 to then march onto a field surrounded by 55,000 people wearing the maroon and gold of a team every sane Minnesotan loves. I'm talking about the marching band. There he was, the 60th drum major of the 120-year-old band high-stepping in his stark white uniform. There it was, the whistle blast signaling the start of the Minnesota Rouser. There I was, along with so many others, spelling out M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A and tipping my hat to the crowd. I filled my lungs and soul with pure school spirit. "So that's what it feels like," I thought.
I feel it again this time of year.
The feeling of going home.