Friday, February 24, 2006
Rosebud's New Field
After nineteen years, football has returned to Rosebud, Montana. Unfortunately Rosebud’s first home game on their new field found them taking on an undefeated and talented team from Belfry; talk about raining on someone’s parade. During pre-game warm-ups, Belfry head coach Tom Webb lightly joked on the occasion, “Well, I guess we get to give them their inaugural butt whuppin.’”
I knew of the impending six-man mismatch earlier in the week and contemplated attending another game between two other undefeated powers, but I had made the conscious decision at the onset of the season to attend every Belfry game regardless of any lopsided match ups. As it turned out, my decision to stay with the Rosebud/Belfry game was a good one despite the 73-14 final score—in favor of Belfry of course.
The story in Rosebud wasn’t the game, but the new field that would be christened that day. Many of the not-so-perfect attributes of a classic small town football setting were brought to the front. For one, several fresh rows of rocky dirt ran parallel with the yard lines on the field where the new underground irrigation system had just been installed—hardly a well-manicured field. Added to this hazard were several new sprinkler heads that hadn’t quite seated themselves below the playing surface.
The game was well attended by the citizens of Rosebud—possibly every last one. Just before the game started, there was a euphoric ambiance in the air and the community was clearly proud of anything to do with this quaint little Montana town. The back of the program included a long list of individual names and businesses that contributed to the new field’s completion. The small section of bleachers was full and a line of spectators stretched the full 80 yards of the field on the home side. The public address system consisted of a woman with a bullhorn introducing the players just before kickoff.
And then there was the scoreboard which came all the way from Choteau, way up near Great Falls. It had only arrived on Thursday before the game. A Rosebud fan told me that it had fallen off the trailer while rumbling down Interstate 90. I laughed and imagined the next scoreboard gossip I heard would be about how they acquired it on Ebay. Despite its wear and possible tear, it sat on the trailer (a temporary setup I’m sure) just beyond the west endzone. An orange heavy-duty power cord snaked its way to the scoreboard from some undisclosed location—and all the lights seemed to work as it counted down through the afternoon. Where the scoreboard once read “HOME,” a block of heavy red paint with white letters now covered it reading, “ROSEBUD.”
Rosebud’s new field isn’t exactly adjacent to the high school. Rather it is about four blocks down one of the town’s main streets. After the game, in what reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting, a string of defeated Wranglers—still in uniform—could be seen walking through town heading for the school’s locker room.