Following a 10-0 regular season, a #1 seed, and a first round bye, A.I. duPont High School stepped into the state playoffs for the first time in 27 years and first ever in Division I. Me, Megan, and my younger brother James, a fellow AI alum headed down to Tiger Stadium for the game.
The first thing we noticed was the insanity of the entire scene. Parking was no longer available anywhere on AI’s grounds, and we ended up packing with many others in the shopping center across the street. Because of this, I missed all of St. Mark’s pre-game field show, save for what I heard through the windows when finding parking, so I don’t have any band smack from that. Upon entering the stadium, our first pass was in from of the band, where I got to say hello to Mr. Parets, my former band director, and Rich, the assistant director, who I marched with back in my high school days. Mr. Parets made it a point to call up to the band and introduce me as the 1999 president of bands, which was quite well received by a band who, if nothing else, knows the importance of history to this great organization. Similarly, Rich mentioned my cymbal acuity to the drummers who were right up at the front. It was cool and humbling at the same time.
From there it was off in search of seats, of which there were none. We ended up settling into some standing room near the end of the stands, partially obscured by other fans, though we were able to move up when some folks who clearly were unfamiliar with AI football games actually left the stands during halftime.
AI lost the game. The team ran an option offense with no true passing threat, and St. Marks had it sniffed out fairly quickly, prevailing 10-8 in a defensive battle. What was interesting is that in our immediate vicinity were quite a few adults who didn’t seem, at least not based on their commentary, to be the parents of current players, but rather were other adults who had, for whatever reason, hitched their hopes and dreams to AI football. The feeling of desperation and futility from some of these grown men made me feel like I was among Eagles fans, which, given the locale, I probably was. Still, while there was plenty of yelling going on, I was pleased at least that it was directed towards the coach and not towards the teenagers playing their hearts out on the field.
As for me, despite the scoreboard, I had a great time. I saw quite a few folks who I hadn’t seen in years, got to see the Tiger Marching Band perform a field show for the first time in nearly a decade, and got to once again set foot in a stadium where I spent so much of my high school career. And yes, I watched AI lose a football game, but I had done plenty of that in my days as well. While I’m not a believer in moral victories and truly believed we could make a run at states, it was awesome to be playing football on Thanksgiving weekend.
The loss brings me to an interesting topic however; Generally I don’t believe in curses or jinxes, and I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think that if they do exist, I’ve got anything to do with them. Still, merely by observation, every time I’ve gone to see one of my alma maters play in the postseason, they have lost. UMBC lacrosse lost in tournament games I attended in 2007 and 2009. UMBC basketball lost in their one and only men’s basketball tournament appearance in 2008 in Raleigh. USF lost its first bowl game in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl. USF men’s soccer lost in the Elite Eight at Wake Forest in 2008. And of course now AI football lost a playoff game where I was present. That’s quite an unfortunate track record I’ve got. Still, it won’t prevent me from getting out and supporting my teams whenever I can—here’s hoping I get the chance this upcoming bowl season.