When I was a small boy of 6 or 7 years old I was already keenly aware of the existence of the Shelby Whippets high school football
program. And for anyone not from the United States of America, American Football was the main sports attraction in the Midwestern States.
And since we lived on Earl Avenue, only about 2 blocks from W.W. Skiles Field - the Shelby football stadium, we could hear the roar of the crowds in the autumn on Friday nights and could see the stream of football fans walking home after the games. Some nights we would walk down to the grand football field and I would marvel through my little boy's eyes the huge crowds of fervent football fans, all wearing Red and Grey. Then there were those bright stadium lights and the giant gladiators running across the large field and the Shelby Whippet Marching Band playing encouraging tunes. To a small boy this all was the absolute ultimate.
I suppose all this, to a small boy, is equal to watching your favorite professional soccer team (in Europe) play live for the first time. These helmet-wearing boys were men to me. They were monsters! They all looked so strong, so fast, so well organized, and the fans loved them. When a touchdown was made the crowd went absolutely wild.
Then, of course, whenever there was a summer or autumn parade, there they were atop the flat-bed trailer, all wearing their red, numbered football jerseys, all proud and mature and oh so cool. The sidewalk spectators would cheer and clap and these guy were Shelby's pride and joy.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s and even into the 1980s the Shelby Football program was hard-nosed football. I can't say how it is now but I suspect it's changed quite a bit but with great success. Back then it was a time of Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, or even Bobby Knight-style coaches. But instead of them, we had equally hard-nosed, long-term football coaches like Bill Varble and Bill Wilkins before him. The coaches back then were feared, hated by some, and respected by everyone. As a player, it surely looked as if the coaches had blackened eyes, sharpened teeth, and breathed fire every time they shouted orders and were ready to snap necks when orders weren't carried out with precision.
I imagine coaching today is more of a science, more of a psychology, more attuned to computerized technology to aid them better their chances and utilize everything to their greatest abilities. Today is the day of the cerebral, calm, calculated coaches like a Jim Tressel
of the Ohio State University football program. Nowadays when you see a coach who shouts in the face of a player you think that coach must have lost his mind. Back in "the day", that's the way it was done.
Shelby high school football players walked on a different cloud. And on game days, Fridays, the high school football team wore their jerseys to school. So when you saw them downtown wearing their football jerseys they received stares, smiles, slaps on the back and lots of well wishes for that evening's game. They were true celebrities no matter who they were. Of course, the starting team, the ball carriers, the receivers, and the quarter backs were best known and got more publicity. But the notoriety doesn't last forever.
It wasn't until some years later that I was fortunate enough to proudly wear the Shelby High School football jerseys on game day. But that's for another blog entry.
Labels: Bill Varble, Bill Wilkins, Shelby Athletics, Shelby football, Shelby Football Field, Shelby sports, Shelby Whippet Football, Shelby Whippets, Skiles Field