Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Denton, Montana and the NFL
So, imagine travelling to Denton, Montana, to watch an eight-man football game and find a little Cessna, single-engine plane circling the field at a low altitude. After making a couple passes over the field, the pilot actually puts it down in the alfalfa field/landing strip next to the gridiron and then casually walks over to the sidelines to take in the action. I learned later that his son was a linebacker for the visiting Harlowton Engineers.
I suppose this is a small example of the charm that one might experience in the small town football venues around Montana and Wyoming.
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It's a long way from places like Denton, Montana, to the congested metropolitan areas and their professional football games and stadiums—and more than just physical distance too.
Recently a gentleman living in the Washington, D.C. area wrote about a football outing he recently experienced involving the Washington Redskins.
“I live just outside Washington, D.C. and yesterday attended, as a guest, the Redskins-Tennessee Titans NFL game. Never have I seen such blatant commercialism in my life, everywhere you turn you are expected to pay ($7 for a bottle of beer or a brat hot dog—this is after $110 for an end-zone ticket and $25 for parking) or are forced to watch a wide-screen video commercial. Around the inside of the stadium and animated billboards—promotions for soft drinks, banks and products I have never heard of. The in-stadium, big-screen-replay-screens spend more time on commercials than on plays and replays. I sat in a throng of 88,000 others and could not really see much of what was going on football-wise.
The players have no local loyalty—they are hired mercenaries. The crowd can be jerked around only so much; the Redskins played so ineptly that the hometown fans turned violently against them as they blundered, fumbled and racked up penalties. I seldom watch NFL on TV and now I never will again.
I was thoroughly frisked before entering the stadium…”
That seems like a lot of money for a not-so-good time.
Contrast this testimony to my experience at Denton. A charcoal-grilled hamburger cost $2.75—just like the ones from the backyard at home. All non-students paid four dollars to watch the game even if it was possible to watch from the surrounding roadsides without paying. Of course, parking was free. There were no advertisements that I could remember, only a list of booster club members from the Denton area in the game program.
The best part though was that every player on both teams truly represented their school and community. The only recruiting that goes on at this level is the head coach trying to talk a potential student/athlete to join the football team. Some coaches are so successful that over 90 percent of the school's male population dress out every Friday night or Saturday afternoon.
Thankfully I wasn't frisked before the game, but many of the locals knew they hadn't seen my face before when they gave me a nod or smile. A couple of the bolder ones went so far as to ask where I was from—which is a great question in starting a conversation at a small town football game.
Denton, Montana is a great place to take in a small town high school football game. Not only is it in a great setting, but their football program is a reputable one despite losing to Harlowton the day I was in town. The hometown Trojans have made several trips to the six-man title game and even won it all in 1990. Sometime after that, they moved up to eight-man play and in 1994 and 1999 they were the state runner-up.
Of course there's the other attribute associated with Denton—you can fly in for a game and no one needs to give you a ride to the football field. Lear jets are probably out of the question.