Roger Marolt: Roger This | AspenTimes.com

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

High school homecoming football games are overrated. This memory courtesy of a recent letter to the editor encouraging the township of Basalt to rise in a mawkish frenzy on an upcoming Friday evening to witness the annual fall rite known to those in the know as “the whipping of the butts.”

With only a few words, plenty was said about the need to beat the dread lower midvalley enemy; their collective evilness summed up in the name “Roaring Fork High,” or “Carbondale” in slang. The impassioned plea seemed to suggest that the resuscitation of the essence of Basalt, which has nearly vanished with the real estate slump, depended on the turnout for the bloody gridiron massacre, culminating the “magical” week of homecoming.

For a moment even I, (yes, there is an “I” in “cynic”) was caught up in the sentimentality of the message. What could be better than a “talent show, brute volleyball, powder puff football, and an amazing bonfire;” each event festooned and pom-pommed up with gaudy school colors to bring a town together, if only one time each year, during the week leading up to “the big game?” Then I recalled Aspen’s own homecoming game a week earlier and thought, well, how about a “big game” for starters? We beat Basalt 49-7.

There is no argument. Homecoming football games are dull by design. The athletic director, school secretary, and student senate are due as much credit for the victory as the team’s starting quarterback. The AD picks a patsy, the secretary shoehorns the game into the crowded school calendar, and the head boy and girl place orders for the royalty’s chrysanthemums. Deal done. Chalk up a “W.” Get your tickets for the dance early.

Do you ever wonder why it is such a big deal for a visiting team to win somebody else’s homecoming? It’s because it happens about as often as the moon turns blue, and those dates are easy to schedule around. If a team is slated to play at several homecomings in a season you can rest assured that it’s a serious rebuilding year or the AD is about to drop the program.

My own sophomore year at AHS we played in no less than four homecoming extravaganzas. Our final record was 1-8 (you guessed it – we won our homecoming) with the highlight being the whooping Glenwood laid on us to the tune of 76-3 before they headed off to their dance. But, we turned things around in subsequent seasons. By the time I was a senior we played in only two homecomings, although a few years later the football program was indeed dropped.

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With all this I am not suggesting that attendance at the local homecoming game is a waste of time. It is, however, a waste of hype, crepe paper and sentimental tears. For adults, homecoming is the yearbook full of gray hair, wrinkles, and notes of congratulations for surviving mid-life crisis.

But, all of this is stumbling out of bounds headlong into a pile-up. So, I might as well follow up with a late hit: As with most things rural, we do football games backward here, deep in the hills. How else do you explain that homecoming, inarguably the worst game of the season, is the one with the largest attendance? It makes no sense, but fortunately, as with everything else rural, we have a chance to redeem ourselves, but only if everyone participates in the redemption (think public book burnings and the X Games, for examples).

We (yes, all of us!) have a huge game tonight, and if we wasted our biggest crowd on homecoming then we don’t deserve to be called a football town. And, since most national ski publications have dropped us like an end-over-end punt in their resort rankings and even the Aspen Board of Realtors appears to be bored of hyperbole, what the hell else are we going to call ourselves: “The medical marijuana dispensary capital of the United States”?

The Olathe Kernels (or is it the Colonels? … OK, it’s the Pirates), the team currently ranked second in the state and first in the hearts of cob lovers everywhere, are coming to town. They won it all last year with a bumper crop of talent, and coach Corn (I’m not making this up) has them primed for a repeat. We are likely the last team on the Western Slope that has a chance to pop them. If we do, it could lead to Aspen’s first league championship in football since Mick Ireland became Irish. (Insert potato joke here.)

You couldn’t ask for a sweeter match-up. It seems that in Olathe everything is bigger. Their school is bigger. Their kids are bigger. Their trophy case is definitely bigger. But, in Aspen we have bigger hearts and lungs. (Come to think of it, we do have lots of cross-country trophies.) They say it’s due to the altitude, but I think it’s because we eat right, exercise regularly, and are generally exceedingly healthy (our apparent need for more medical marijuana dispensaries per capita than anywhere in North America notwithstanding).

The one thing we need to tip the balance in our favor is a bigger crowd; to produce enough ticket stubs to keep Marilyn Marks up nights counting and recounting them through the next election cycle. To heck with your personal trips down memory lane and all that other sentimental crap associated with strolling through the stands in a tight, faded lettermen’s jacket at homecoming. There is a football game tonight!

If Olathe shows up with a larger, more boisterous crowd than we do in a game this big, it’ll be embarrassing, for them and us. So stop patting yourself on the back for making a social appearance at the homecoming game. That’s like only attending church on Easter. And you know that to get the Spirit, you have to attend more regularly than that.

The game starts at 7 p.m., sharp. Get your damn butts out there! (If you really need a nostalgia fix, pop in the old R.E.O. Speedwagon tape on the way out. No misty eyes on the ballads!)

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