On Friday morning Jackson Academy High School had a pep-rally. I learned pep-rallies are gatherings in schools that take place before football games for the purpose of encouraging school spirit. Jackson Academy was playing Prep that day and they are huge rivals. Jackson Academy has a special place in my heart, since they were part of my first football game experience. So this was my second visit to JA.
The stadium was empty and calm, like everyone is still sleeping. There is a monument dedicated to coach Sherard Shaw at the entrance of the stadium. I found out later he was an outstanding man, who worked as a teacher and a coach at JA. He passed away several years ago loosing his battle with cancer. He died the week of the Prep game. Ironically, JA beat Prep for the first time in school history the following Friday. A tribute to coach Shaw.
The energy inside of the gym facility was incredible. The cheerleaders did an acrobatic performance, the band was playing loudly and everyone was cheering and truly lifting audience’s energy. This game was important, I figured. Not only for the kids, also for the school, teachers and the parents. Everyone was there, supporting the players with a very organized twenty minutes of performance. At one point, the lights went off and hundreds of candles were lit to make atmosphere even more inspiring.
After a while I heard a song that was played for most of football games I have been until now. It was a Hey song, written by Gary Glitter in 1972 and I believe is one of those that lifts emotions immediately. The other song that is very popular during a football season is Hey Baby, which me and my friends in Slovenia were going crazy on the law school students’ parties. JA’s mascot is a Raider man, a general with a big head and a sword. I did not ask about the meaning and story around the Raider man, but I am sure there is one.
When I was standing in the crowd, trying to get closer to the band, there was a girl dressed as a soldier holding a beautiful shiny saxophone. I always had a thing for saxophone. Even though I was playing piano for eight years, sax was an instrument I admired even more. A teacher stopped the girl and said to her with admiration: “you play that thing too??? Is there anything in this school you don’t know how to do??” I didn’t hear girl’s answer, but I guess she was one of “the cool girls” who will get to date a football player soon.
When I came closer, the cheerleaders recognized me and surrounded me with questions about my football tour. This time, they were not wearing the sparkling clothes, but strong, fighting-mode camo T-shirts and pants. Actually, camo pattern was everywhere. It made me think about the real war. For a European, camo clothing and promoting the fight spirit is almost a sin, but here it means something else. For Southerners, it means a great devotion to the love for the country, the values of patriotism that start to occupy people’s minds since early childhood. Even the little ones, age 6 or 7 were wearing JA colors, dark blue and white, but some of them already had camo patterns on their clothes. Everything around football and football spirit reminded me of rough training of soldiers with somewhat cruel methods, preparing young boys for real life, so they will be able to protect their families and the country, if necessary.
American culture in the eyes of the Europeans is considered aggressive, although when I spoke with the locals in Mississippi they told me it is all about the defense, preparation and protection. However, later that night at the Jackson Academy game, I witnessed the type of communication between a coach and a boy, that would be probably considered a violent act back home. I will tell you all about that shocking experience very soon.