"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."
-- Abraham Lincoln
Several years ago, I was covering the state basketball tournament at Hot Springs' Summit Arena. I can't remember all of the teams playing that evening, but I remember then-Class 6A Fort Smith Northside playing in front of a fan base of maybe 25 people, while Class 1A Kingston played later that evening in front of a fan base that far exceeded the tiny town's population.
When you attend the same church with the team's wide receiver, are best friend's with a cheerleader's mother, and are neighbors with the right tackle, you have a far more personal interest in the games than the average citizen in a larger town. You not only know each player's family tree for at least a couple of generations, but you have probably trick-or-treated at their homes or have been invited to a barbecue... or two.
The bank tellers in small towns don't have to look at your account before calling you by your first name. You may attend church with them. Such are the small perks in small towns.
And when a special year comes around, such as the unbeaten runs through the regular season that Salem and Highland are enjoying, you can bet the success is being enjoyed long after the final whistle blows on Friday night. The pride goes well beyond the school's halls, past the local highways and down each county road.
Winning not only adds an extra glimmer in the eyes of a mama and daddy, but it means a little more bounce in everyone's step. Even the squirrels and birds notice more morsels than usual have been strewn across the grounds at the stadiums this season. They are loving this season.
The long-lasting effect may not be as obvious as the current hoopla. But the janitor will probably make sure to dust a little extra around the team picture years from now. And, at some point, a 17-yard touchdown run will become a 40-yard gallup into tall-tale glory. But, that's OK.
During this period of heated political debate, what a nice reprieve to have something so much more simplistic as the local football team to support. Democrats and Republicans, Baptists and Methodists, and the haves and have-nots may not vote alike, worship together, or partner in business ventures, but they can all be proud of what their team, their sons -- literally and figuratively -- have accomplished.
There may not be a TV show in the works commemorating the Greyhounds' or Rebels' season, but the memories produced in the fall of 2012 are well documented in the memories of the respective communities. Like TV, moments rehashing each 48-minute game don't have to be precisely accurate 20 years from now to enjoy them all the same.