There are times, places and circumstances that create a distinctive and unique ambience of their own. They are peculiar to that time and place. The social interaction at a family viewing or funeral for a loved one has a specific type of atmosphere from any other social gathering. The words used the attitudes demonstrated by word and body language are special for that setting. One of the special settings is the bus rides to and from football games for the team members.
That bus ride from the team locker room to the stadium has its own social norms that are quite different from a ride of the usual teenagers when grouped together. Normally they are a rowdy and noisy bunch as to be expected from kids that age. But if you’ve never been on a bus before the game you would be surprised how those young men behave. The bigger the game and the tougher the opponent the more subdued the atmosphere. It is always pretty quiet in any event. That is the first thing you would notice on that bus. There is not the usual horse-play and jousling that you would anticipate with those young men just getting on the bus. Every0ne lines up without even being told and boards like condemned men.
Today I hear that many of them take their Ipods with them and listen to music. That may be true but mostly they are in their own world. The coaches go up and down the bus talking quietly here and there to a few players. In the ancient days there was no music. Everyone was tense and concentrating on their assignments and the opponent. In a purely social setting we often talk too much which is an expression of our nerves to impress someone or appear witty or clever. But on the bus to the game you know that the only way to impress someone will be how you perform on the field and that is yet to come. There will be hushed whispers here and there between team mates and the coaches but mostly you can hear a pin drop in the back of the bus if it fell in the front. Everyone is going over in their mind their equipment that they packed on the travel bags to make sure they brought everything they need. The quarterback is normally with the coach going over the game plan one more time and the defensive captain or linebacker is with the defensive coach reviewing what to watch out for. You can smell the lineament and tape in the air. They have a peculiar odor that you will never forget. Mostly you are in your own world with your own thoughts and worries at that point.
When you get off the bus at the stadium the noise level begins to increase. The voices become harsher and louder. Everyone is beginning to rev up for the kick off. The locker room will be louder and after the pre game warm ups will become boisterous with enthusiasm and pent-up energy. The adrenaline is flowing now and there will be the third or fourth pit stop in the restroom right before you take the field for kick off.
After the game the bus ride home is a true tale of two cities depending on the outcome of the game. In victory the atmosphere is frenetic and frenzied. Everyone is shouting and hollering about that great play–the tackle, that run, that catch, or that touchdown or goal line stand. There are slaps on the back and immediately tall tales begin exaggerating the achievements just done. It is not only a sense of joy that is escaping after being bottled up for so many hours it is also the relief you feel for having done something you weren’t sure could be done only a few hours before. Any player will tell you how relieved they were after the game and the win. Now it is the smell of sweat and mixed with the lineament the permeates the air. The coaches will sit together and allow the guys to ramble and yell. They will have already had their say in the locker room right after the game. They are relieved also.
In defeat it is a death march on wheels. Heads are down. If it was a big game or one that maybe you put you out of the playoffs then there will be a few tears here and there. No one ever says anything about the tears then or later. It just happens but the young men have already learned that men don’t talk about tears with each other. There won’t be anyone holding some one and telling them it is alright. It’s not alright, at least not on that ride home. It takes time to get some perspective on the game and the loss. A laugh or mostly any comment after a defeat will draw the dagger eyes from the nearest coach. Most of the guys will feel like there isn’t much to say. Everyone is thinking “did I play as well as I could”? All are seeking some confirmation of their worth and solace somehow.
After those defeats the locker room is cleared quickly. There is no lingering around and going over the great plays during the game. Mostly, just a few words here and there telling your buddy he played well even if that is stretching the truth a bit.
But youth is wonderful and within a day or so they have it behind them and they start gearing up for the next game or the next season. They are resilient. If only we could learn to apply that resilience to all our lives’ ups and downs. There is the next day, the next challenge and the next opportunity even if it is disguised as a problem.
“The first duty of man is that of subduing fear” –Tom Carlyle www.olcranky.wordpress.com