Perfection Involves Family, Bad Football

Only one thing can draw me to central Utah on a Thursday evening?or any night, for that matter.

It wasn’t the 24-hour Denny’s or the secret, secluded mountain huntin’ spot. It wasn’t the crystal clear view of the Milky Way or “the stoplight” (actually, I don’t even think the town operates a stoplight, but I did see numerous stop signs functioning adequately).

I braved the two-and-a-half hour trek to Salina, Utah (a.k.a. Nowhere, U.S.A.) for a displaced family reunion, which directly coincided with a football game. I drove to watch my 16-year old brother and his Kanab High School football team in their season finale, as did the five other members of my family.

On paper, the game was slated to be a closely contested slobber knocker?an old-fashioned showdown. Or, more accurately put, the Toilet Bowl. The 1-7 Cowboys were taking on the 0-8 North Sevier Wolves. It was a showdown between two talent-lacking, undersized and underpopulated schools. Both were winless in the region, but only one could walk away with that distinction for the rest of history.

The game was a pool of intrigue, but I didn’t come for it.

I fled Salt Lake City at 5 p.m., realizing already I would not make kickoff. I weaved through the obstacle course of freeways, not breaking but shattering various Utah motor vehicle laws in the process. I had a game to catch. But, according to Murphy’s law, traffic was at a bumper-car frenzy.

I finally arrived in the freeway town of Salina after one quarter. If not for the freeway, a blink and you’ll miss the “town” of Salina. I walked into the stadium?er, rows of ass-freezing bleachers accompanied by a pair of goalposts and a 120-yard field. I recalled the bliss of small town high-school football. The smell of hay. Being downwind from the manure of the dairy and pig farms. It was perfect football weather. The kind where a head of steam and your own sweat will get you feeling as warm as basking in the Arizona sun.

But all the attractive ambience of the experience was hardly my point for being there. The game served as a family gathering. My eldest brother got off work at Ch. 4 to accompany his girlfriend and little girl to the game. My parents drove from Kanab, and my other brother drove from Salt Lake City. At two-and-a half hours both ways, Salina was a convenient out-of-the way meeting place for both factions of the family.

My arrival was greeted with hugs, name-calling and talk of the latest happenings. There were no creepy uncles, distant cousins I’d never seen or funny-smelling potluck items. Just a family bonding session in sub-40 degree weather.

With my brother playing regularly, my emotions got thrown into the game. I disappointingly found myself being the annoying sports guy. The guy who questions player substitutions and play-calling, as if the game really mattered. But I wasn’t the guy who was vocal about it?I will never be that guy. I was the college guy, I had to show off my supposed knowledge.

I truthfully didn’t care whether my brother’s team won or not, as long as he “got the damn ball.” But the fan support for my blood-brother only warranted one catch, which was for 12 yards and a first down. When my little bro’ was taken out of the game, I swiped a football and tossed it around.

The outcome of the football game was insignificant. Don’t get me wrong, it was good to see my alma mater pick up the 53-14 win, albeit against a poor assemblage of scrubs. A frustrating season ended at 2 7, as one conference win didn’t exactly earn the Cowboys a berth into the postseason.

The football was paltry, the three-hour return trip in darkness was undesirable, but the very purpose of sport was achieved last Thursday. The weather complicated the soiree, but a meaningless high school football game between two struggling teams brought a family together.

Rory welcomes feedback at: [email protected].