If you’ve ever spent much time in Tennessee, then you know it beats to a different drum. Some people may know it for it’s hospitality, delicious food, and Bible belt status. While others may see it for it’s troubled racial past, it’s musical roots, and slower moving culture.
Tennessee is surrounded and bordered by 8 states, sharing the most borders of any state in the Country. From the muddy Mississippi River of Memphis in the southwest corner to the banjo strumming Country Music Capital of Nashville in the center to the Great Smokey Mountains near Knoxville in the northeastern part, it’s a state proud of it’s musical heritage, breathtaking vistas, and football.
That’s right, American football is taken very seriously. From the time the kids can run, they begin playing the national sport in their neighborhoods and schools. Balls are passed, bodies are tackled, and parents are cheering in the stands. Many families will be linked to football in someway and it’s not unusual for the fans to wear their favorite College or NFL American Football T-shirts or Jerseys on game day.
High school football is also extremely popular and competitive. It’s a time-honored tradition for students, parents and faculty to support their teams on Friday & Saturday nights. Rivalries between schools add even more fuel to the competitive fire. The stakes are high, as the teams compete each week, with the goal of having a winning season and making it to the State Championships.
For most players, their competitive football days will be over at the end of the season, their senior year. Of course, there will be a few athletes who will go on to play College Football and even fewer who will end up as professional athletes in the NFL.
This year the Academy Award winning documentary “Undefeated”, touches on this and shows us the incredible story and journey, about a Memphis inner-city high school football team and their dedicated coach, who tries to help the players be the best they can be on and off the field. If you’ve never been to Tennessee, it’s worth the visit for the food alone. But if you want to have an even deeper appreciation for the local culture, head to a high school football game and you won’t be disappointed.
Make sure you keep an eye out for the cheerleaders. They’re just as competitive and some even more so, than the football teams they support. In the south, cheerleading isn’t just about supporting the team, it’s far more than that. It’s a competitive sport!