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It’s refreshing to know high school ‘fans’ still exist

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I’m standing at the top of the stands at Tiger Stadium Wednesday night, waiting for halftime to end and for the Summit High School boys soccer team to resume its match with Denver Christian. There’s nobody around me. I’m shivering, underdressed once again for the sudden drop in temperatures that begins to happen at twilight in the fall.Suddenly I notice a man scaling the bleacher rows one by one toward the top. He reaches where I am and asks me if I write for the newspaper. I tell him yes. He smiles, says his name is Chris, then glances down at the field for a moment, which is empty other than a quartet of 5-year-olds kicking a ball around. We get to talking about the evening’s game, about Summit’s hot-to-trot team this year. Chris rattles off the names of the players, referring to them by first name and using the team’s success of last season in some of his opinions on this season.It’s my job to know the things he’s talking about, so I am able to keep up, but only barely.

After a few minutes of back-and-forth banter, the conversation reaches a point I’m familiar with: It’s time for me to find out which of Summit’s players is Chris’ child. Or, as has been the case before, which of the kids is his daughter’s boyfriend.”So,” I say to him, “I’m guessing you’re a parent. Which one’s yours?””Actually,” he replies, “that one down there.”I follow his finger and find that he’s pointing at one of the 5-year-olds using halftime as recess and the field as their playground.I’m baffled. “Really? What are you doing here?”

“Oh, I just like coming out to watch. These kids have a good team this year, you know. I’m excited to see them play some more.”It’s not until now that I realize how much of an anomaly Chris is in this county – someone with no immediate ties whatsoever who has come to see a Tiger team play. A fan, and nothing more.There are others out there like Chris, I’m sure. I just haven’t met them yet. If I did, I’d tell them how great I think it is that they make the effort and pay their $5 entry fee to watch their local high school teams in action.In many communities, high school sports are the pulse. Townspeople follow their teams closer than they do the pros – oftentimes regardless of results. They travel to road games in caravans and treat the athletes as if they’re gods. In these places there could be no better time to rob a neighborhood than during a high school game.Not so in Summit. Because we live in such a transient, resort community, it’s rare for a team to develop a large following that transcends the turnover. This is even true for the boys and girls ski teams, which have won 30 state championships between them but still struggle to secure respect.



It’s for reasons like these that it was so refreshing and encouraging to meet Chris on Wednesday.I played high school sports. I’m sure many of us did. It felt good at our games to glance at the stands and see faces I didn’t recognize as Peter’s mom or Noah’s uncle.I’m not imploring that everyone who lives in Summit County attend a high school game for no reason, other than to see the home team play.I just think it’s cool when people do.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 231, or at doneil@summitdaily.com.


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