High School Football In Texas Takes On New Meaning After Shooting

Nov 11, 2017
Originally published on January 2, 2018 8:38 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Just a few days ago, the Floresville High School football stadium was packed with mourners from across south central Texas. It was a vigil for the victims of the Texas church shooting in Sutherland Springs just 13 miles away. But last night, it was time for Friday night football, a moment to feel normal again but also to honor the 26 lives lost. NPR's Leila Fadel went to the game.

UNIDENTIFIED CHEERLEADERS: (Chanting) Do the tiger rumble. Everybody do the tiger rumble. Everybody...

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: This is a huge game for Floresville High School and for San Antonio Southside High School, competing to be district champions.

(CHEERING)

FADEL: There are cheers from the crowd, joyous music from both teams' school bands.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND PLAYING)

FADEL: But at halftime after Floresville's band plays the school fight song, the "Tiger Rag," they take their white feather caps off. And the mood turns somber.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Leonard Bernstein once said, this will be our reply to violence. To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. To conclude tonight's performance, the band would like to honor the victims and families of the recent tragedy in Sutherland Springs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND PLAYING)

FADEL: They play "Amazing Grace." The crowd goes from cheering to wiping away tears. Some people stand with their heads bowed. They remember all those who died. This is the high school that serves Sutherland Springs. But many, like Bronson Fuller, came to the game last night to try to forget just a little bit.

BRONSON FULLER: I think it just gives people the normal feeling again - get back to the routine of what they're used to - Friday night lights.

FADEL: Because the last week, he says, has been pain. He lists the people he knew at the church that was attacked. And football - well, there's nothing that brings people together like football in Texas.

FULLER: We just get lost in the moment. You don't have to think about that. I think the biggest thing - it's - takes - you know, it gives people peace of mind to not have to think about the hardship that everybody's dealing with right now.

FADEL: Michael Schroller is the high school principal.

MICHAEL SCHROLLER: We're hoping our community comes out and has laughs and has high-fives and cheers our football team on. And we're hoping that we can get back to normal. And this is a start to that.

FADEL: But he says normal doesn't mean forget. The school asked spectators on both sides to wear white in a show of unity and grief. And Floresville High School wore their white jerseys.

(CHEERING)

FADEL: There are moments it feels like any Friday night - cheerleaders egging on the crowd, the mascot - a tiger in a silver bow - dancing around. But Lance Farrell, a high school history teacher at Southside High School, says it isn't any Friday night. It's five days after a man killed more than two dozen people at a church just miles away.

LANCE FARRELL: I want people to remember what happened because, hopefully, we can find a way to prevent those kind of things in the future. It's just - if we work back to normal too quick - I don't want to lose the significance of their lives and what happened to them.

FADEL: And the lives lost are remembered with a prayer at the beginning and a tribute in the middle. But in the end, even though the team showed unity and honored the dead together, it's a football game, and they're rivals. Southside High School won 36 to 28. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Floresville, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHIL COOK'S "THE JENSENS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.