Big and Bright-Chapter One Excerpt.

cover of B & B

Launius lets his players know how to deal with the well meaning but sometimes distracting supporters in the stands.
“Remember, you’re at La Marque. Best fans in the world, but they also know everything.” Defensive Coordinator Lawrence is very confident about tonight, telling his charges, “This defense, right now, is about where we were in the fifth or sixth week last year.” Coach Jackson expects the Tornadoes to come out flying, but thinks they’ll fade once the emotion settles down and as long as the Cougars don’t give them an excuse to think they’re in the game.
Several coaches recommend I go to the pep rally after school, saying a La Marque pep rally is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It turns out I have seen its like before. The suggestive, rhythmic dancing by girls in skimpy sequined costumes may not be the norm in Texas, but I’d seen many similar high school groups in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The crescent of coastal Texas including Galveston, Houston and Beaumont has more in common with Tidewater Louisiana than other parts of its state. Texas is only one state, but it has more cultural regions than most countries.
After the rally, Cougar players come in for their game uniforms, navy blue jerseys with gold numbers, COOGS stitched below the neck, matching pants with ‘CTS’ on the right hip and blue socks. The players head to the cafeteria for a team meal and a short devotional by Pastor Lee before getting on the air-conditioned school buses that carry them two miles to the stadium.
Etheredge Stadium is impressive, but not because there’s anything noteworthy about its architecture or size. The place is simple and functional; just two slopes of steel bleachers, an adequate pressbox, Spartan locker rooms, a basic scoreboard and a natural turf field. What’s striking is the care taken preserving it. It must have been built 50 years ago, but the 11,000 seat stadium looks brand new. Like a perfectly restored 1970 Dodge Dart, nothing showy, but clear reverence for the traditions this place holds. The field is perfectly manicured and stenciled, the Cougar paw painted at midfield for the game, as the buses arrive from La Marque at 5:00.
It’s a hot and muggy evening in Galveston County. The players, coaches and fans are already dripping sweat at kickoff. The stands are about half full. This is a rivalry game, but nobody expects much from G-Ball, and their fans don’t travel well. Not one to overlook any opponent, Jackson’s looked nervous all day. He’s a deeply superstitious man; on the sidelines he dresses all in black and has several game day rituals followed each week. A stick of gum is given to the same chosen assistant during warm-ups, he always finds his young daughter in the stands holding up a personalized sign of support. A few years ago he wore something that wasn’t black and his team lost. Since then, he’s careful to stick to his routines.
During his pregame talk, Jackson reminds the squad of a linemen challenge tug-of-war they lost to new 3A rival Coldspring this summer. Coldspring taunted them after the loss, “Welcome to 3A.” To remind his team of this humiliation and hammer home the point that all must pull together to accomplish anything, Jackson brought a thick length of rope for a player to carry onto the field each week. “Don’t let go of the rope” is the teams’ theme for the season…

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