I've loved football since I was eight years old and played quarterback on the field at recess. To me, there's almost nothing prettier than watching a tightly wound spiral travel a long arc then somehow land safely down field in the arms of another.
Every fall, on T.V., on the radio, online, you get plenty of football coverage in Alabama. It's in the air and you couldn't tune it out if you wanted to. So I thought, let's see if we can get up close to it. I wanted to delve into a game day and meet some of the people that make it special. Tuskegee University opened up their field and sidelines to us for their homecoming game and gave us their all.
You couldn't be in Cleve Abbott Stadium and not get swept up in the energy. There was a richness and texture of sound and spirit that resonated between the team, the students and the community. Our small team parachuted in with little warning but each who read for us (Robin, a piperette; Nathan, a player; and the Golden Tiger) was patient and giving, considering all the excitement and activity that we were distracting them from.
Every blast from the trumpet section, every golden flag, crowd reaction, dance move, all down to how a player taped up his cleats--we wanted to see and capture it all and that's how I missed that Tuskegee blew a pretty big lead in the third quarter to lose the game. Hopes of an SIAC title were lost with it too. I didn't realize they'd lost until a few minutes after the game ended. By then I had greeted a player, I was all amped up and jovial from the day, and didn't understand why he was telling me it was going to be too hard to read for us. It took me a few beats, and then I felt like an ass.
As a documentarian, I want to pay attention to every single thing happening, physical and emotional, at all times. I know that's how my teammates that day, Bob Miller and Ginnard Archibald, feel as well. But you just can't, and there are times you turn around and, while you were focusing on a neat moment in front of you, behind you the course of things has changed and you hope you haven't blown it too.
Fortunately for us, at the last minute, Nathan Johnson stepped in for the teammate who no longer felt like reading. So, thank you again Robin, Nathan and Golden Tiger for giving part of your day to us. Amidst all the commotion and emotion, and even with a huge loss, you gave yourselves to the game and to some old poetry.
By Jennifer Crandall, as told to writer Danielle Starkey