Anyone who has
ever been to a high school football game knows the feeling. It's more than a
sport you're there to watch. You're there to be part of something. It's tribal.
Much more than the college game or the NFL, high school football defines
communities across the U.S., even as it gives us a look at the players who'll
be gracing larger stages in the near future. Most important, high school
football is just plain fun--more sophisticated than in years past, to be sure,
but still, for the most part, a sport that helps young athletes find out who
they are. They care, and you can see that clearly from the stands--or, better,
while standing on the sideline. Ask anyone who ever played.
surprising that this fall two new television shows--an MTV reality series
called Two-a-Days and NBC's Friday Night Lights, a drama spun off from the
movie and book of the same name--will ride the excitement of high school
football. Nor was it shocking to Sports Illustrated staff writer Lars Anderson
that when he was interviewed by a Birmingham TV crew while reporting this
week's story on Hoover (Ala.) High (page 56), the station led the nightly news
with its report on the Buccaneers. "They take their football seriously in
those parts," says Anderson. Which is one reason Hoover (the subject of
Two-a-Days) is No. 1 in SI's preseason rankings.
Starting with the
12-page football preview in this issue, the magazine--which launched a high
school section on SI.com in April--will devote at least a hundred pages a year
to high school sports. SI.com senior editor B.J. Schecter worked on this week's
package with the staff of RISE magazine (formerly SchoolSports), the country's
leading authority on high school athletics. RISE editors Jon Segal and Rob
Bodenburg, and senior writer Jon Mahoney, will spend the entire year talking to
coaches and players and keeping track of more than 10,000 programs; their
unique knowledge of high school sports is reflected in this week's coverage,
which includes SI's rankings as well as guides to breakout players and key
matchups. "To know this side of sports is to love it," says Schecter.
"And once you do, you'll never think of back-to-school time as a bad thing
a professor of history at Tulane, is the author of The Great Deluge, a
critically acclaimed book about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. In this
week's SCORECARD section (page 20) Brinkley looks at the way Saints rookie
running back Reggie Bush has been embraced by the still-reeling city of New
Orleans, and how Bush has responded by doing what he can to help out
financially and to keep hope alive. Brinkley sees the start of the NFL season
as a pivotal moment in the recovery. "August 29th marks the one-year
anniversary of Katrina," he writes. "[But] September 25th, the Saints
home opener, is the official rebirth of the city."