Last week, I stepped onto the turf of a high-school football field for the first time in decades. I did not expect the sensation I’d feel, a sort of yearning for a love long gone but never really requited. We were finishing up principal photography on “Knives and Skin” and had to shoot a series of scenes taking place at a high-school football game. We’d secured the use of Lemont High School’s stadium for a night. Except for our cast, crew and extras, the entire place was empty and the sky was dark, but the lights glowed over the crisp green field and an entire rush of youthful memories surged as I stepped over the sideline and onto the field.
Though arts and culture are my “game” these days, it was not the case when I was young. My father is a lifelong college football fan whose oldest son wanted nothing more, growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska where dad was completing his PhD in physics, than to be a star player for the Cornhuskers someday.
And so countless hours of my school days in Joliet were spent in an attempt to overcome my innate physical shortcomings in pursuit of this futile dream. When I lost the starting quarterback position in a three-way shootout my senior year in high school, reality should have taken over, but it never really did. I’d go on to the University of Chicago, in part because I could play football on their Division III team, where I’d continue to prove my gridiron mediocrity for a couple more years.
For most Newcity readers, fall is about the new arts season, a birth of culture so vast and new and invigorating it takes on a spring-like vigor. For others, it’s about going back to school.
And for the rest of us, it’s about football. Like our nation itself, our love for the sport is deeply tarnished these days, by the revelation of its life-destroying head injuries and the collective public racism by those who object to how certain players exercise their fundamental American right to respond to the National Anthem. But it’s hard to lose the love of a lifetime.
So you’ll see me in the theater this fall, watching the sad and desperate lives of fictional fellow humans unfold on the stage. And you’ll see me on the couch, next to my dad, who will make his special chip dip that is only brought out for such occasions, watching the sad and desperate fates of our teams, the Huskers and the Bears, unfold on the screen.
Look for Newcity’s September 2018 print edition at over 1000 Chicago-area locations this week.