The atmosphere at Hammer Field has changedPublished 11:27pm Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I used to play football.
Not on a groomed field with coordinated cherry and blue jerseys, but in the grass behind an orange fence at the west end zone of Hammer Field.
Occasionally I’d try and find a seat on the wooden bleachers, where all the older kids sat, or grab a slice of pizza from the concession stand with my $3 allowance for that night. But the line was often larger than my patience.
When I was done, I’d meet my parents by the entrance gate, tell my friends I’d see them again on Monday and proudly carry the plastic red football I’d received from a cheerleader back to my parent’s van.
I was in fourth grade at Tiger football games — and it was the best night of the week.
Now 12 years later, I’m back at that same field, covering football games for the Albert Lea Tribune.
Last Friday, when the Tigers played Waseca, was my first reunion with Hammer Field in a couple years and it was without a doubt nostalgic.
Not only was I part of the Tiger faithful in fourth grade, but in junior high and high school as well. But this time was much different.
That night was cold and wet, and perhaps not the best night to judge the atmosphere at Tiger football games, but the stadium was only peppered with fans. The wooden bleaches, that once seated every clique from Southwest Junior High, were empty, and the grass behind the west end zone — that sacred place I learned to throw a football — was void of fourth graders. Heck, it was void of everything.
To be fair, I didn’t know if the Tigers were winning or losing when I was in fourth grade because I wasn’t watching, but I was there, and I wanted to be a player on that field someday because I saw how many people came to watch them.
But I was at the Tigers game that Friday night when they won 29-7 in game full of highlights.
More people should have been there to see it.
I know that Tiger football games cost money, teachers no longer get in for free and the latest edition of “How to Parent” may not endorse letting eight-year-olds run around Hammer Field unattended.
Kids have excuses, too.
Xbox’s Madden ‘11 trumps Nintendo’s Tecmo Bowl of my generation, and today’s digital cable with On Demand would have made pre-pubescent Andrew’s head explode.
There are a lot of reasons not to go to Tiger football games, or any other sporting events at Hammer Field, but supporting our local athletes is more important than most of them.
Admission costs money, but the dollars goes towards youth sports, upgrading facilities and keeping athletic fees down for students.
Plus just being there — supporting the athletes and community — will help Albert Lea teams win. It’s hard to sell a program to kids if nobody comes to watch them.
I hope that someday, like was the case at homecoming during my first-year of college, I’ll have to sit on the visitors side because that’s the only place I can find a seat.