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Column: Let’s Hear It For The Band (And The Cheerleaders, And…)

I’ll be perfectly blunt: usually when I go to a football game, I’m there for the football game.

Yes, I recognize the value of pageantry in sports and especially in football. I make sure to include the marching band, the drumline, and the cheerleaders in my highlight videos and I enjoy having some music in the background while I’m running around on the sideline, taking notes and filming the big plays.

But I never realized how essential those “supporting” players are to football until last Saturday.

I went to Compton to cover the final 17 minutes of Lakewood and Compton’s important game, which started at 5:07 left in the third quarter, the exact moment the game was suspended due to lightning on Friday night.

I’ve never been to a less satisfying football game. Both teams simply walked out and took the field after a brief warmup. There was no marching band for either team, no drumline, no cheerleaders. To be fair there were barely any fans, either, perhaps a total of 150 between both schools.

Let me tell you: football without the pageantry is a grim affair.

The game was so matter-of-fact that it was missing the heart a game normally has at the high school level. There was dead silence between plays, to the extent that coaches on both sidelines had to keep their voices down when giving instructions to keep their opponents from eavesdropping on them.

Now that’s not to say that the players on the field weren’t giving it their all and performing some incredible feats, they absolutely were. Lakewood running back Sebastian Kronberger proved himself one of the best players I’ve seen in red and white over the last decade, and there were a few thrilling twists and turns thanks to a slippery football, which was fumbled three times in 17 minutes.

But instead of the exciting atmosphere we’re used to under the Friday night lights, the Saturday night lights felt like playing a video game alone in my living room at one in the morning, or reviewing film in a classroom on a Monday morning.

So from here on out I’m making a vow. I’ll pay extra attention during the Oscars and the Emmys when the awards for supporting actresses and actors are being handed out. I’ll spend an extra five minutes with the marching band and the drumline and the dance teams and cheerleaders this week when I cover my game.

And, when someone scores a touchdown, after I’ve filmed the celebration on the field, I’ll be sure to train my camera and my eye on the stands and the sidelines. I may be at the stadium to watch and cover the game, but the game wouldn’t be the glorious spectacle that it is without all the people off the field.

Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.