Whatever Happened to Halftime?

One Word After Another by James A. Autry
James A. Autry

One Word After Another by James A. Autry

I went to college in what is known in football circles as the Southeastern Conference. In most places, the football season is now over and the baseball season is upon us, but in the Southeastern Conference, it’s never over. Folks down there will be hashing and rehashing the past season until the new season begins.

When I visit my Southern relatives, I have to confess I feel a bit out of it because, you see, my favorite part of a football game has always been halftime, and in all that off-season hashing and rehashing, nobody mentions halftime.

Until recent years, halftime was devoted entirely to marching bands, baton-twirling majorettes and various kinds of flag-waving teams. It was a special show for those of us who think that football games should be about more than football.

I take nothing away from the coaches and players, but after all, there are only 11 of each team on the field at a time. Think of the challenge of planning and executing a maneuver in which 200 or so uniformed people march and spell out the school name while at the same time playing music. “Iowa” is pretty short, but what about something like “Chattahoochie U?” I was in the band at the University of Mississippi, and I tell you that was no piece of cake. (It’s no secret why the band directors used the “Ole Miss” nickname instead.) And unlike football, the players have to avoid bumping into one another.

These days, however, it’s difficult to find a good halftime show on TV. You can see it in person at the game, but the TV time now belongs to the advertisers. The sad thing is that the band members put in as much practice time as does the football team. I used to write letters to the networks complaining about the usurpation of the band’s time in the limelight, but that was as futile as writing to a senator.

Then when my son Ronald joined the band—first at Hanawalt, then at Merrill, then at Roosevelt—it meant that, as a dutiful parent, I had to go to the football games. To my everlasting appreciation, I discovered two things:

  1. Watching high school football is, if anything, even more exciting than watching college football, and way more exciting than watching pro ball.
  2. The bands—therefore, the halftime shows—are every bit as polished and professional as the college bands and shows.

Don’t just take my word for it; go to a high school football game next season. If, like me, football is not particularly your thing, just show up at halftime. You won’t regret it.

Mississippi native James A. Autry (jamesaautry.com) of Des Moines is a well-known author, poet, musician and business consultant who has written 14 books on such topics as gratitude, servant leadership and his Southern boyhood. His new book, “Everyday Virtues: Classic Tales to Read With Kids,” is co-authored by his son Rick Autry.

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