High School Football: an opportunity to observe social behavior

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I went to a local high school football game this evening. I usually try to catch a few of them each year. Brings back memories. So many of them. If you concentrate hard enough you might even be able to figure who that kid in the photo is. Go ahead. Give it a whirl.

It’s different sitting in the stands. I go because I enjoy watching the action on the field. I am learning that many attendees–particularly a large percentage of the Jr High and Sr high students–have other competing interests. It’s a rich environment for ethnographic observation.

Typically I sit high in the home stands on the east side, as far from the band and screaming die-hard student fans as possible. It’s still crowded, but at least there is some leg room. Students fill in empty spots all around me. They text incessantly, update their Facebook and MySpace statuses, gossip, flirt, show off their jerseys (freshman and JV players), run back and forth to change seats or see what’s happening in other parts of the stadium, get food, gossip some more, and generally flit about like the social butterflies so many of them are.

Not that all of them are like this. Just the ones seeking to be seen and noticed by as many people as possible.

It’s fascinating to behold, this social melting pot. There is a whole world of experiences that they come to expect when they attend a football game, most of which have nothing to do with football. It’s Friday night. A dance is scheduled immediately following the game. Who will they go with? Will they go at all? Beyond the west end zone are the grills cooking hamburgers. It’s a popular spot for kids to gather without the distraction of cheering and referee whistles. They focus on their friends and potential dates.

Behind the home stands younger kids hang out, chasing each other around, climbing on equipment, despite posted warnings to the contrary. When they get bored they go to the field east of the stands and chase each other some more.

I have witnessed these and numerous other social constructs played out over the years I’ve attended games at this particular stadium. Curiosity causes me to wonder at the implications. Maybe the onset of boredom contributed, as well. After all, the initially close game (22-18 at the half) devolved into a blowout by the fourth quarter (39-18 with 9 minutes left in the game).

However, for those who minister to people in general and youth and kids in particular, my point is this: observe the social settings of those whom you influence. It is rich with information which will deeply inform your preparations to impact them with the gospel.

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