My nephew plays junior varsity football for my hometown high school. His freshman team didn’t win a game last year; the JVs haven’t won this year either. Neither has the varsity. If they go winless for the year, it won’t be the first time it’s happened in Monroe. In the fall of my senior year, the 1977 Cheesemakers (that’s our name, don’t wear it out) went 0-and-9.
But no matter how hideous the team’s performance on the field, it didn’t matter to the fans—we turned out for the games anyhow. That’s because the primary attraction of high-school football had little to do with football and everything to do with sex. Well, OK, not actual sex, although there was certainly some of that—albeit not involving anybody particularly close to me, shall we say. But for most of us, football games were about teenage mating rituals first and football much later.
Given the general ineptitude of our team, there was usually more drama in the stands at our home games than there was on the field. Who came with who, who’s talking to who, who’s leaving with who—that got more attention than the state of the running game or the perils of the pass defense. For established couples, football games could serve as a relationship barometer—if a couple reported to be on the outs snuggled under the same blanket the whole second half, that required a recalibration of the rumor mill. Sometimes a couple would show up together, but it was obvious (or perhaps widely believed thanks to the rumor mill) that one of them was interested in somebody else who was there. Handicapping the various possibilities became pass-the-popcorn entertainment for those watching.
Sometimes, there would be headline-making surprises, like when two people who had not previously been an item would show up together. A buzz would run through the onlookers, and sooner or later, somebody would ask, “So, are you two . . . ?” And one or the other would say, well, yes, we’re together. This happened to me once; although my new girlfriend and I did not move through the most rarified social circle, we felt approximately like Elvis and Priscilla as the news about us spread.
That was the first fall I had a driver’s license (and thank goodness for that, as there weren’t a lot of places a young couple could go to be alone without one), and so many of the songs from that October put me behind the wheel, on my way to the game, or to some other, um, adventure. Boz Scaggs’ “Lowdown” has the sort of groove that makes a 16-year-old guy, who knows deep down that he is not cool, feel cool by association. Plus, it proves that not all of the songs I return to in this month are moony and reflective. But it still sounds like October to me.