All alone on Senior Night

Editor’s Note: It seems like Sunday’s column has created some strong reaction, of which I am thankful. I am not professing to be right or correct or that my column is in any way perfect, but I was hoping to create some sort of a dialogue, and at the very least, make some people think about those less fortunate than others.

I am sorry Sunday’s column upset and offended some of you. It was not written about any real or specific person and was in no way intended to be demeaning or insulting in any way.

That said, while there are always a lot of smiles and congratulations on a senior night celebration — and those are certainly warranted — there are some sad stories out there as well. While the subject of this column is fictional, in my 11 years covering high school sports, I  have heard and been witness to some truly disturbing and breathtakingly sad instances not unlike the one I tried to convey in the column. I understand the tough times people face, and the heroic things so many parents — especially single parents — do for their children. That’s why the line “can’t — or won’t” is in the column.

My intention with the column was to present another side of senior night, one that doesn’t happen too terribly often, but even one instance similar to the picture I tried to paint is one too many. And I can assure you, I know of more than one. I wanted to make people think  about those kids who aren’t so fortunate, and what might be running through their heads. The thing I fear most is that people aren’t thinking about those kids, and that the moment escapes them without another second’s thought.

To read it again or see it for the first time, here is Sunday’s column:

All alone on Senior Night

Oh man, not this.

I hate this. Hate it.

I knew it was coming. Sure I did. Doesn’t make it one bit easier though.

I asked if they would come. But they can’t — or won’t. So now here I am.

All by myself.

Why can’t we just go ahead and play the game? Forget this nonsense and go play. That’s what we’re here for anyway. Or maybe we can keep warming up. Run through the drills forever. Over and over and never stop.

Because once we stop, it’s gonna start.

And I don’t want any part of it.

C’mon, somebody reset the clock. Don’t let it wind all the way down. Just go up there and reset it for another half hour, 10 minutes, whatever.

I can hear it. The clock, I mean. These big scoreboard clocks, they hum when they’re on. It’s not loud or anything, and if you’re busy, you don’t notice it. But I notice the clock. I notice it.

And it’s humming. And it won’t shut up.

Ah man, this is the last drill. Last thing we do before we get ready to play. Maybe if we botch it, screw it up, we’ll have to run it again. Then maybe, if we mess up again, we’ll have to re-run it. Then we’ll run out of time and we’ll just skip the thing. Maybe move it to halftime.

Yeah, move it to halftime. Let’s do it then. At halftime, I can get lost. Hang back and miss it. Go to the trainer. Go to the water. Heck, go to the bathroom, I don’t care.

Halftime. Good idea. Maybe I should go ask Coach, tell him halftime might work better…



Stupid roses. And here they all come. Down to the field, wearing their nice clothes, nice coats, nice shoes that are about to get mud and grass all over them. Especially them heels.

They don’t care, though. Look at ’em. Smiles all over their faces. They just can’t wait to get down here.

Now the guy on the microphone is talking. And the band is coming out. And the guys are getting together, helmets off, getting in line.

God, would you look at that woman? She just waved to Clay. Yelled out his name and gave him this big freakin’ wave. “Hey baby!”

“Hey baby!” some of the guys holler, and crack up. Yeah, try to make fun of him, fellas. You don’t know.

Line up, Coach says.

Fine, I’ll do it. Ain’t like I got a choice. I’ll do it just like we talked about after practice yesterday. Just hurry it up and let’s get this over with.

Let Jimmy hear his name called over the speakers and walk down the sideline with his mom and dad. Let him give his mom the rose and a little kiss on her cheek and shake his dad’s hand. Let Baby do the same thing. Let Marcus go. And Rick. And Isiah. And on and on.

I’ll just walk up with Coach. I’ll look hard. Like it don’t bother me. Like it’s OK that Mom’s at her second job and Dad don’t give a damn about me.

Yeah, let’s honor the seniors before their last home game.

Some honor.



Filed under Alex Podlogar, Burton Cates, Cape Fear Valley Conference, Chatham Central, Designated Hitter, Douglas Byrd, Eric Puryear, Grace Christian, Gray's Creek, Lee Christian, Lee County High School, N.C. playoff brackets, N.C. State Championships, Overhills Jaguars, Prep sports, Southern Lee High School, Sports, Sports columns, The Sanford Herald, Tri-9 Conference, Union Pines, Western Harnett, Westover

2 responses to “All alone on Senior Night

  1. Melinda Pierson

    For what it’s worth, I think this is your best ever. The question, for all of us sitting in the stands, shaking our heads and thinking what a shame it is, is what can we DO about it? We always say that we’d help kids if we only knew which ones needed it. And here – once a season, we see kids literally lined up in front of us who could likely use a little help. Someone to cheer them on, on the field and in life. So what to do? How to reach out? THAT’S what all of us need to be asking ourselves in the stands. If we don’t know the answers ourselves, let’s ask each other. Each one of those kids deserves our best ideas. Great job, Alex. I love it.

  2. Terry T

    I liked the way former Southern Lee head football coach, Bryan Lee handled these kinds of situations. While he could only do as you mention and represent the player who had no one there for him on Senior night, he made sure that player at least had someone in the stands pulling for him at every game.

    When Coach Lee arrived, he implemented his “Cavalier Sweeties” program. Each football parent was assigned a jersey number at the beginning of the football season. The one exception is, you couldn’t get your own son’s number. At each football game, you would bring a postgame snack for this player, to be handed out as the parents would line up along the fence to congratulate the players, win or lose, after each game as they passsed down this line of parents and fans, high fiving as they went.

    By doing this, everybody on the team had somebody in the stands that was there for them. To cheer for them, support them and give them a little snack at the end of the game and at the same time get a pat on the back for giving it their all.

    We all thought it was a great way to start a tradition of parent and fan involvement with the team. Unfortunately, the two coaches since haven’t seen it that way and have done away with allowing the players to walk down the line of parents and fans after the games for that pat on the back.

    Good story Alex. Right on the money as usual.

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