Friday night’s football jamboree was a great night.
If you were a sophomore player trying to get your coach’s attention with your effort.
Otherwise it felt like doing a wedding rehearsal in full tuxedo in a stuffy, hot church. You knew the real thing was almost here, but the bride’s aunt was standing in for a bridesmaid stuck at the airport, crazy Uncle Jimmie wasn’t letting anyone forget that he was sweating bullets in his “monkey suit” and the bride was a near wreck trying too hard not to twist an ankle in those heels lest she limp down the aisle on the big day.
The age of the jamboree is coming to a close. The coaches know it but can’t say it. The fact that the majority of the starters for the five teams at Heritage didn’t even work up a sweat in Friday’s lovely August evening speaks volumes with no sound required.
The less than capacity crowd said a whole lot more.
The jamboree has served a purpose, the gate and sponsorship dollars that get divided up help meet some very real costs. Realizing it’s ability to do so for much longer is a question, here’s few ways to revamp or scrap the preseason get together.
WHAT RIVALRY: The thrill is gone from the event now that everybody is playing everybody again. With the exception of watching Greenback’s end of evening performance as potential giant killer, fans can see the real thing with the actual starters a few weeks — or in the case of Maryville vs. Heritage, a few days — later. That allure has faded away.
It might be time to do an alternating trade with another area to bring in some teams fans wouldn’t normally see. You send us G-P and Sevier County, we’ll send you Alcoa and Heritage, and both jamborees get a bit of a bump.
EXHIBITIONIST: The universal guiding principle spoken from the coaches Friday went something like this, “we’re already worked hard this preseason, played some physical scrimmages to get prepared and we don’t want to come out here and get any of our starters hurt in the jamboree.”
Valid concerns, but if that’s the case let’s use the last of those tough scrimmages, ask for a waiver from the TSSAA and sell some tickets for fans to come watch. Most of them have been run in game-like conditions with officials anyway, but even if they aren’t that way for four full quarters UT’s Orange&White Whatever — it certainly isn’t a spring game anymore — has shown fans will turn out for glorified practice if you give it the right name, generate the right interest and provide the right atmosphere.
So maybe two weeks before the season start, Heritage’s scrimmage with Oak Ridge plays two quarters on the game field with the starters, and does its second half with JV on the practice field, while Alcoa and Knox West start off on the Heritage practice field then move the second half to the main field. It’s a logistical nightmare, but fun for the fans and still gets done in two hours.
THREE RINGS: Everything has a price and fund raising is the goal here, so let’s radio-ize this thing. For $100 you can ride the lawn mower with Heritage coach Tim Hammontree in the pre-jamboree grass cutting. For $500 you get a replica game jersey, get to upgrade to a ride a team bus to the jamboree and run through the band at the start of the quarter — commemorative photo is extra. For a grand, you can also pick the intro song the team uses to take the field.
Make it $2,500 and you get your own set of coach’s attire, get to stand on the sideline with a headset and call the team’s first offensive play call. Double it and Alcoa coach Gary Rankin will allow it be a passing play. Triple it and Maryville coach George Quarles will promise to try real hard to muster a concerned expression when the play doesn’t work.
Let’s not forget the quarterback kissing booth and the chance to take your own shot in the skills competition for a nominal entry fee.
If that sounds a bit much, like it would be just a bunch of folks running around on the field, that it’s not a preview of the season to come and not real football, well, we’re already there anyway, so might as well make the most of it.