There use to be one day a year when I looked forward to the next day as if I were 10 years old and it was Christmas Eve.
Use to be, the Wednesday before the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament held a singular sense of anticipation as the next four days would be full of win-or-go-home basketball and 64 teams began to whittle their way down to 16.
Now there are two such days when I eagerly await a more-than-you-can-eat buffet of sports.
The Texas high school football 2A through 6A state championships will be played Thursday through Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston. First game starts at 10 a.m. Thursday morning as Canadian faces Refugio in the 2A Division I title tilt. The last of the 10 games will kickoff sometime around 8 p.m. Saturday as Katy plays Lake Travis in the 6A Division II championship game.
I’m excited about it, clearly. I think the University Interscholastic League has created something special in the way it has crafted its football state championships. They have made it into an event that the entire state can embrace. Wherever you are this week, you can watch the small schools and the big schools battle for supremacy of their class and division as it will all be televised on Fox Sports Southwest.
And I’m especially pumped that I’ll be watching the games both ways this week. I’ll definitely be parked on my couch to watch a lot of the action on Thursday and Friday. Then on Saturday, some of my professional friends and I will be traveling to NRG Stadium to gather video and photos to help promote my forthcoming book The Republic of Football: Legends of the Texas High School Game (rolling out in July of 2016 from University of Texas Press).
Because I cover high school football every week in the fall and have done for the past 19 seasons, folks know me as a high school football enthusiast. As such, they’ve asked me how I feel about the sheer number of high school football teams that make the playoffs these days. In case you’re unaware, about 60 percent of all public-school teams make the playoffs under the current system. People think that waters down the competition.
My response is that by the time you get two or three rounds deep, all the teams that really didn’t belong are out. All you have is more football, which I view as a good thing.
There’s also the view that having so many state champions lessens the achievement.
Like I’ve written, the UIL will crown 10 champions by the end of the week and that’s added to the 1A Division I and Division II teams that hoisted six-man state titles last weekend. That’s a dozen state champions just from the public-school ranks.
That’s a big number and I don’t really have a clinching argument to say it’s the right number or its way too many or anything in between.
I know this though, I collected 41 stories of high school football teams from the time when there was only one team that could say it was the state champion up through the era when Classes 1A through 5A were sectioned off into specific enrollment divisions. You know what I found? The richness of the stories was a constant and the passion and intensity for the game, if anything, increased throughout the decades.
My advice is to give your cynicism the rest of the week off and enjoy these high school football championship games. Better yet, revel in them knowing that high school football is one of the things Texans do better than anyone else.