By George Ferguson
When I was 8 years old, there was nothing more exciting to me than going to Blue Pony Stadium on Friday nights with my friends. At that time we didn't necessarily watch the game.
Instead, we played football in the endzones emulating our favorite Blue Pony players. We knew most of their names. But did it really matter? No, we just were happy to be there, to be part of the excitement that came with those games.
When I got to high school, I decided not to play football but many of my close friends did. And consequently, my love for Havre High football grew stronger. I never missed a home game.
During that time, one thing remained constant the community's unwavering support for Havre High athletics, football in particular. Every home game the stadium was packed, the parking lot tiers were full of cars with horns honking and lights flashing, while younger kids still circled the oval around the field and played football.
It was the place to be in Havre.
Several years have passed since I graduated from Havre High. While I have been gone from Havre for extended periods of time, I have always kept a watchful eye on Blue Pony athletics. I studied all the newspapers and quizzed my friends still in Havre for news on the Ponies. And if by chance, I happened to be in town when a Havre High athletic event was happening I was probably there.
Now with my current position at the Havre Daily News, I once again find myself at Blue Pony Stadium on Friday nights watching football. However one thing is noticeably different from my past. The crowd.
Two home games into the 2002 season, I am shocked at the lack of attendance at these games. Once the initial shock of the small crowds wore off, my attitude on the matter turned to that of disappointment and wonder. I find myself asking the question:
"Where have all of you gone?" And more importantly, "Why?"
In the past, it didn't matter if a Pony team was 0-2 or 8-0 a large crowd gathered at every home game with the trademark Havre enthusiasm and pride. It was a tradition. It was just as important to be in the stands, as it was for the players to be on the field.
It was a gathering for people. Friends and fans all came together with one thing in common. Cheering on the Ponies. You would see some of the same people game after game, season after season, year after year.
But, as I stood on the sidelines this past Friday night, I saw none of that.
For whatever reason, the people of this community aren't coming to the games. And it isn't just football games, it's all of Havre High sporting events. Attendance at the events has noticeably declined every year. It leaves me wondering. Why?
I don't have a son that plays football. I am there to report, to be an unbiased spectator and report on the game. However, I am still a Havre High graduate and a Blue Pony fan.
Because of that, I can say that these kids deserve better than this.
These kids that play high school athletics deserve our support as a community. They play for the pure love of their sport. They are not high priced millionaire athletes playing for a paycheck. There are no labor disputes and threats of a strike. There are no recruiting scandals or major off the field arrests that wind up on ESPN.
No, these kids are representing us and what Havre stands for. For all that is wrong with sports, they are what's right. They play for something more important than money or highlights on ESPN. They play for pride. They proudly wear the name Havre on their chests.
It is something pure and innocent. And it should be embraced and applauded. And we should be there to embrace and applaud them at every opportunity.
We, as a community, should be willing to spend a couple of hours a weekend letting these kids know that we are behind them and that we are proud of what they are doing; win or lose, 0-2 or 8-0.
We are just days after the one year anniversary of 9/11 and I can't think of a better way of showing our unity as a nation and community than gathering at a high school sporting event and showing our community pride and spirit. If we can't gather to support something as simple as our own high school team, what does it say about our sense of community.
With my current position, I don't have the luxury of bias. I can't sit in the stands with blue and white on and cheer loudly (although lately there are plenty of seats available). But, most of you can. I only hope after reading this that you will take time out of your schedule to go to a football, volleyball or any other local sports event.
In the end, I believe it is more than just a game; I believe Havre High athletics is a large part of our community and an example of what is good about our way of life.
George Ferguson is a sports writer for the Havre Daily News and can be reached 265-6795 ext. 19.