At every turn, change, change, change
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Like it or not, things are always changing.
I remember that span when Heritage was a constant contender for a playoff spot in football. The last of those coincided with the first time I got a bit of cash for covering a football game back in 1991. I was still in high school then, but the local paper was expanding to six days a week with a new Saturday edition and needed some help because they had three high schools to cover and only two sports guys.
Boy, do times change.
Looking back now, with let’s call it 20/26 hind sight, it’s pretty easy to spot some of the changes taking shape. Many of them I’d guess were our own taste of developing regional and national trends, but that hardly matters. Change is everywhere, and we are hardly disturbed by it until it effects us or someone we care about.
There was a term then, it may still be in use, but I haven’t heard it in a while, for players who tended to put on pads at those schools that drew on students mostly beyond the just emerging suburban dream. Older readers can relate to the farm-to-subdivision transformation. Younger readers, Google “U.S. housing trends” and skip any results that use the words “new suburbanism” or “synergy.”
The term was “corn bread fed.” It was used to describe the 6-foot, 200-poundish kid and those who were built just like him that lined up and plowed the road for some running back to reach the end zone. These guys would hit the weight room some, but they were generally just farm-boy strong. There’s a lot of factors involved in explaining why you don’t often see that kid in these parts anymore. It’s complicated — societal change, demographics and both macro- and micro-economics.
Hay bales explain it better.
That first season I had as a paid journalist, the tri-county crossroads — where the Doyle, Seymour and Heritage school service areas met, were dotted at harvest with rectangular hay bales being tossed up on the wagons. Now it’s the large, round bales covered with tarps along the fence rows.
Because round baling is more efficient. It takes two guys with one machine and a lot less sweat the same amount of time it used to take 12 guys on the rectangle bales. Farms got efficient or they generally became a subdivision called Big Rock View Estates or some other marketing-friendly name that incorporated View. End result: Very few teenagers are spending their summer tossing hay bales.
In 1988, a kid who went to Porter could be expected to go on to Heritage High. It was the new school — just 11 years old. It was even drawing in students from outside Blount County. I think we lost four out of my class of 120-something to Heritage. But then Doyle and the already consolidated South Young were reconsolidated. Seymour switched buildings and its campus got 20 years younger. Result: The flow along the borders started trending the other way until it got to be such a torrent that it changed again when Sevier County tried to cut off the tap.
Things just change.
Pep rallies aren’t what they once were either. They weren’t what they once were by the time I was a kid. And we were still debating Beta or VHS with four television stations and occasionally a fifth — if the clouds were correct and you held your mouth right playing with the rabbit ears. Kids, Google “precable TV” if you’re confused. Suffice it to say it was not yet an entertain-on-demand world.
But sometimes a step back is also changing a step forward.
The bedrock trait of a U.S. resident for centuries has been to adapt and overcome. That’s exactly what Angie Whaley and the crew at Heritage have done to put together a modern pep rally. (Check out today’s Weekend section for the details on Mountaineer Madness.) They’ve gone retro to make the rally once again a communitywide event.
It’s also what coach Tim Hammontree is doing. His players, like every other student, are different than the ones who were at Heritage in 1991. They have to be, because despite the universal and ever-present teenage phases, times have changed. Schools like Heritage aren’t putting a line of corn bread fed players out to play anymore. Between conditioning, clinics, personal trainers, camps and combines of every sort generating a year-round football atmosphere, the high school game has changed in everything but name from the days of farm-boy strong being a winning formula.
And here’s the thing: Heritage’s build-it-back-from-basics approach could still work in that environment and make a much better team much faster than anyone anticipates. And it would still be hard to tell on the scoreboard. The Mountaineers are in one of the two toughest AAA districts in the state in almost every sport, but especially football. A Heritage football team that goes 3-7 in 4-AAA might very well be capable of 7-3 and be a playoff possibility in a neighboring odd-numbered AAA district.
If that seems unsettling or unfair, remember, everything changes.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com