Our View: Friday night lights shine brightest when sportsmanship prevails

Our View
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Are you ready for some football? As if Mother Nature knew of tonight’s big games, high school football in the foothills returns with cooler temps, high expectations and excited players anxious to smack someone other than their teammates. No more so than at Placer High School, where coach Joey Montoya and his high-octane Wing-T offense play host to Vallejo High School. LeFebvre Stadium should be rocking early and often as the Hillmen set sights on a third straight trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game. And maybe beyond. Spirits also will run high in Lake of the Pines, where Bear River tackles Cordova. Colfax travels to El Camino, and Foresthill treks to Marysville. Perennial power Del Oro travels to Las Vegas Saturday to face Bishop Gorman, Nevada’s defending state champ. Unlike baseball, which has six weeks of spring training before opening day, or preseason professional football and basketball with endless schedules of exhibition games, everything counts after the first kickoff in high school football. No scrimmage mentality, no limited play for the first team, no walking back to the huddle. For the players, each and every play means something. While championships aren’t won on opening night, champions are born. For the students, tonight’s games signal the true start of the school year. Homework is already part of the routine, but football — and the outpouring of school spirit — purges any lingering thoughts of summer vacation past. And for the community, Friday night lights are a beacon for unity, civic pride and common purpose. Families come and sit together, generations bridged by tradition, memorable victories and heartbreaking defeats. Old friends are reunited. New friends are made. We may have our differences in politics, business and religious beliefs away from the stands, but we all bleed the same team colors once we pass through those stadium gates. The thread that weaves through all three — player, school and community — is sportsmanship. If you’re going to watch the Hillmen, Falcons, Bruins or Wildfires tonight, cheer like mad for your team, but remember to show the same respect for the opponents as you would want for your players. It’s normal to enjoy the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s encouraging to join the cheerleaders and raise the decibel level. It’s acceptable to high-five a stranger and common to be frustrated by a bad call. Know the difference between passion and making it personal. While the sport of football often resembles a ballet of violence, the football bleachers have no room for intolerance, inflammatory speech or aggressive, physical behavior. And if you’re thinking of having a few cocktails before the game to get fired up, don’t. The high school stadium at night should be treated with the same zero tolerance approach as the school grounds during the day. Your team deserves that from you. In return, the players commit to an effort they — and you — will be proud of. Win or lose, healthy or banged up, the best football players exemplify the challenge of dedication, hard work and commitment that results in achievement. As Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi once said: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.” Stand up for the kickoff.