Those concrete bleachers

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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I spent some years of my childhood going to this place. The little elementary school boys would play football while my sister and a handful of other little girls would cheer them on with their pom poms. 

I remember being cold every time I was there, huddled between Mom and Dad on the concrete bleachers to see my sister cheerlead in her red uniform as the Cardinals played through the autumn. 

It must have been ’03. Maybe ’04.  Sure, they were just some kids with helmets too big for their heads playing a football game that didn’t matter, but I remember it being loud. I remember the smell of concessions and the warmth of the nacho cheese. Those nights were loud to my little, inexperienced ears. I had felt startled when a touchdown happened, and the crowd roared with excitement. 

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On Friday night, I returned to this place. The sky was dusky and cloudless, and it was silent over a space that used to be full of life on Friday nights. 

The white paint on those concrete bleachers was chipping off. The chain link fences weren’t as secure as before, and there were no lines painted on the field or the track that encircled it. I walked for well over a mile that night around the track as the sun went down, and then, with the dimming light still left, I stopped and looked up from the base of the bleachers. 

Before me, the big Landrum Cardinals logo was still painted vibrantly on the commentator’s/concessions building, whatever you call that thing. It looked so lonely. Everything looked so…over. 

Under my sneakers, weeds had made a pretty thick home in the cracks on the track. This track hadn’t been run on in ages. The last time a football was kicked through the field goal? Couldn’t tell you. 

Man, it’s 2024. The memories I have of this place are from 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, I sat between Mom and Dad in this lively stadium freezing under a Cardinals blanket. 

Twenty years later, I returned, and everything was still. Frozen in time, like a forgotten statue that used to mean something. 

I had a theme for this column––and idea, if you will––to really get into the nostalgia of the 1990s and those few years following the turn of the century. Seems like 20 years ago, stadium lights outshined our phone screens. Seems like back then, supporting those games that don’t matter…mattered. Fast forward to this post-pandemic lifestyle where kids are exposed to technology at five years old and, well, stadium lights, flashlights under blankets, fireflies––they lose their brightness. 

I just had a conversation with my friend about how our generation had the last good––really good and rich––childhoods. We were the last ones to grow up on bicycles, no phones, no social media.

See, I had an idea for this column. I really wanted to delve into that turn-of-the-century nostalgia. But I don’t have the space. I guess I really just wanted to tell you that I stood back on that overgrown track, football field at my back, and looked up at those bleachers.