High School Football – Something good happened in Erie, 9/11/2020

Just some kids engaging in what for most of them will be the peak of athletic competition in their lives, gone before they know it. | Photo via Greg Wohlford, Erie Times-News.

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:


Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got football. Don’t ask me if it’s a good idea; I don’t know. Maybe football is the random spring of water as we wind our way through the desert without a camel, or maybe it’s the ice cream for dinner that feels great in the moment but winds up terrible for our long-term health. We’ll see.

Here’s what I know for sure: the vast majority of things I look forward to this time of year have been disrupted or ruined entirely. My kid spent his first morning of the school year stressing about his mask. My grandfather’s health is slipping in a nursing home five miles from me and I can’t visit him. I haven’t seen friends and even some family in months because we’re trying our best to follow the same rules 40% of America thinks are a hoax.

Football has occupied way too much of my headspace for years now, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that this year the itch is worse than ever. Football is the escape from reality I’ve always wanted this time of year but now I need. Every single time I watch a game – and I’d wager this is true for anyone who played – my mind goes back to those idyllic days I spent on the gridiron nearly 20 years ago.

What I tell people I looked like playing high school football vs. what I actually looked like.

This fall, hundreds of Erie kids will experience that fleeting invincibility that only comes from suiting up and walking out of a locker room with the same kids you’d been brought to the brink of quitting alongside during two-a-day practices just weeks before. They’ll bottle up the euphoria of their first win, first touchdown, first tackle of the season. They’ll earn that tiny kernel of achievement from which enormous fruits of embellished fables will grow in the years to come.

This is a huge part of the high school experience for so many. Even if that girl you’ve had your eye on in class can’t watch you from the bleachers this year – even if there is no physical classroom this year in the first place – the games are still on the schedule. Pride is on the line. It’s enough to scratch the itch.

Thankfully for Erie’s gridiron stars, we’ve got this week’s second good news subject standing ready to catalogue all of the action: Erie Times-News’ Tom Reisenweber. Reisenweber studies our region’s teams like a single wrong answer on a pop quiz about any of them would send him hurtling through a trap door into a pit of fire. He’s the Rain Man of Erie high school football.

Tom Reisenweber picked the scores of every area football game to be played this week, and if you asked him, he’d also give you a detailed prediction on how he sees each game flowing, who will control the ball, each team’s keys to victory. For a high school kid, attention from the hometown newspaper would normally be the cherry on the sundae of the high school football experience. This year, it’s all they’ve got.

High school football, and Tom Reisenweber’s encyclopedic knowledge of it, are something good happening in a year fairly described as starved of good things for high schoolers. Here’s to a good, safe season to remember (however inaccurately) for a lifetime to come.

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