TV station vans parked near the football field at Cape Howl High School twice in October 2005. I saw them when I took my son to marching band meetings before football games. On the first occasion, a reserve linebacker had died that morning in an accident near the school. He had been riding a motorcycle, and a collision cost him his life. Mini-cam journalists hoped to coerce heart tugging statements from teammates, cheerleaders, teachers…The second news infestation occurred after police arrested the football team’s head coach for having sex with a sixteen year old girl, a student in one of his classes. Deputies found a memory stick loaded with pictures of their liaisons.
The team limped through the rest of the year under the guidance of a school dean. The pool of in-house coaches had been drained earlier in May when an officer walked into a park’s men’s room and discovered an assistant coach gratifying another man with his mouth. My son reported that opposing fans catcalled the band and the team during away games. The abuse focused on Cape Howl’s apparent culture of perversion.
A coach hired a few years later decided to turn the program around. The football team, even when not distracted by hovering news crews, leaned hard toward ineptitude on special teams. It had become something of a tradition for Cape Howl to allow opposing teams to run back opening kicks for touchdowns. They lost a game in the fourth quarter when the Cape Howl long snapper bounced erratic two-hoppers to a kicker on a punt and to a holder on a point after attempt. Both screw-ups lead to touchdowns for the other team.
The new guy had to come up with a plan to unite his team, to revive flagging spirits. He didn’t quote military heroes, didn’t call on players to summon their inner fortitude, didn’t shame or threaten them into trying harder, didn’t profess his deep allegiance to higher moral standards. Instead, he encouraged players to blame the marching band.
His players fumbled, failed to cover kicks, couldn’t protect the quarterback, seldom ran the football for more than two yards, and rarely stopped an opponent with a goal line stand. Most years they managed to win one or two games. But none of that was their fault. The geeks with the instruments were the real culprits.
The band received orders to quit playing music in the stands when Cape Howl had the football. The coach singled out band members in his classes for humiliation…The first bold steps on the path to victory had been taken…
The team won half of their games that year and qualified for a play off tournament. No news crews appeared in the parking lot near the football field, and the band no longer played “My Girl” when Cape Howl threatened to score.
Win! Win! Win!