Archive for Thursday, October 28, 2004

Real-life homecoming goes beyond reel images

October 28, 2004

A homecoming weekend for me growing up was literally a non-event. There was no such thing as homecoming; hence I had never been to one. This year I decided to get an intimate look at it. I wanted to see if it lived up to all the hype and fanfare that I saw in the movies.
The homecoming parade was where I got my first glimpse of what homecoming was about. I had always thought that was about alumni coming back to their alma matter, but I learned that the event was also an important part of the community, student body and the athletic programs of the school. The pep rally after the parade invoked memories of scenes I had seen in movies.
The bonfire after the rally was a bit of a disappointment for me. I was hoping to see a massive fire with almost a riot-like atmosphere. Unfortunately, the fire was timid and the crowd, a bit subdued. Somehow a few stacks of hay didn't quite measure up to the bonfires I saw in the movies.
When Friday came, I was ready to attend my first-ever homecoming football game. My daughter was part of the cheerleading clinic and that gave me a reason to get there early and capture the atmosphere. Speaking of cheerleaders, we never had cheerleaders in our schools. In fact, up to about four years ago, cheerleading was non-existent in Malaysia.
As I watched my daughter practice, I was impressed with the cheerleaders teaching the little wannabes. Robyn Kelso had done a great job in mentoring her cheerleaders, and they embodied excellence and enthusiasm as they imparted their knowledge to the young ones.
In fact, after their performance, the little girls were so in awe of the cheerleaders that they asked them to sign their shirts. I should have gotten a picture and autographs to commemorate my first close encounter with real-life cheerleaders.
There are not many times in life where events seen in movies turned out to be just as they are depicted, but I experienced one that day. The music began to blare and the crowd rose to its feet as the team made its way into the stadium. The team ran through the banner, and the cheering and music was in full blare. The sound, the sight and the euphoria was exactly how I remembered from the movies. In that moment, perception and reality became one, and I swear I felt like I was in a movie.
I looked around the stadium. and I was amazed at the carefree spirit that was prevalent.
I noticed the children running around the stadium with little restrictions or supervision. Every parent seemed to keep an eye on the children, no matter whether they belonged to them.
Before the game began, I introduced myself to coach Gregg Webb and was immediately taken to his very amiable nature. I could see the passion that he had for the game and his players. His care was genuine and his inspiration real. He told me that the game was the focal point of the homecoming and it was a challenge to keep his players focused.
As the game became a rout, I focused my attention to the homecoming king and queen coronation. The boys were busy playing, but the girls were all dressed up and ready for their crowing moments. I asked the girls how they had prepared for the event and was surprised to learn that they all had spent that afternoon together shopping and getting their hair done.
I expected rivalry and competitive nature, like in the movies, but these girls had none of that. Their camaraderie was more evident than any ulterior motives. I also asked if they minded that the boys escorting them would be hot and sweaty from playing. They chuckled and admitted that it had crossed their mind but didn't think it would be a big deal.
I could not complete my first homecoming without being a part of the dance. So that night, I went to my first homecoming dance. The "hall" was barely decorated, but the students there didn't care. I was also expecting to see kids decked out in fancy attire, but save for a handful, most of them were in jeans and dressed casually.
Unlike the movies, there was not a visible "jock" group showing off, or a "geeks" group that sat alienated. Everyone mingled and had a good time. The biggest surprise for me was the lack of couples. Not many dates in that dance, every seemed to have decided that it was going to be more of a group affair.
As the night came to a close, I had a new understanding of homecoming. I realized that it was not meant just for the alumni to return, but more importantly, an event for the community to share in the accomplishments of the students in sports and school spirit. It was also a time for the students to relish with their hometown friends and make memories that would last a lifetime.
I concluded that homecoming in Eudora lacked the hype and phoniness that I saw in the movies. Instead, the school spirit brought together the students, teachers and the community for some well-deserved fun. And there was nothing fake or phony about it.
As I left the dance, I asked senior Donna Lounsbury to recount her homecoming experience. She said that this was her most memorable because it was her last and it also gave her a chance to make some special memories. Funny, this is my first homecoming, and I shared the same sentiments. Thank you, Eudora, for giving me a chance to experience reality instead of living in perception.
I want to thank Coach Gregg Webb, Principal Dale Sample and The Eudora News for allowing me access to the Homecoming events.

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