Change isn’t easy. People tend to like things the way they are, or least prefer them to the great, wide unknown. With the familiar, at least one knows what to expect. And what’s familiar is also sacred when you’re talking about football.
That’s the way we enter the 2010 high school football season: at the edge of a new era, unsure of what’s to come. Region realignment has given the state a shake, splitting some emerging rivals and pushing new ones together.
It’s caused much hand-wringing, maybe for good reason.
For those given to angst, there’s plenty about the whole thing to lament: Hall County’s seven public schools no longer share the unique experience of competing against each other in the same region; Flowery Branch has been tossed out to such relatively far-flung locales as Madison County and Conyers; and 8-AA tilts so heavily toward the south subregion, the fourth best team may not even get a chance to play for a playoff berth in the final week of the season.
But change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Whereas last season the Flowery Branch-Gainesville game with a region title on the line (in the final week of the regular season, no less) sent us all into hype overdrive, this season we’re already guaranteed twice as much.
On Nov. 5, the winners of the north and south subregions from 8-AA and 8-AAA will meet in true region championship games.
Meanwhile, four other games will determine the remaining playoff berths in the respective regions.
Regardless of what happens in the next two months, virtually nothing will be settled until that fateful Friday and it will all be decided on the field — no 5 a.m. coin flips at the Waffle House, no brain-cramping point differential scenarios required.
And can you imagine the sight at the Brickyard if Gainesville faces North Hall in the region championship game? Call it manufactured drama if you want, that’s the kind of experience players play for, coaches coach for and fans ache all offseason for.
For the traditionalist, the best things about Friday nights in the fall aren’t changing at all.
The sweat, the cheers and, at some point, the tears, will still be there.
There will be the sounds of marching bands, cheerleaders and the tinny voice of announcers wafting over pine trees. There will be tailgating and traffic jams. There will be joy and there will be pain.
There will be those who can’t understand how the outcome of a game played by two teams of teenage boys can elicit such emotion. There will be those know and understand, but can’t explain.
None of that will change this season or next or the one after that. Some things never do.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbholloway.