HiR:tb Toots (@warwalker)

Youth is fleeting; that one is fleeting down the street in his underwear.

Saturday afternoon I went down to Ivor Wynne Stadium to watch some CIAU football – McMaster University vs. York in the last regular season home game to be played in the friendly confines at Balsam and Beechwood.  I went to the game because my friend’s son Joey is a first-year running back for the Marauders, and I didn’t want to miss possibly my last chance to see him play this year.   Joey had a great game in service of a McMaster victory over the Lions (since when are they no longer the “Yeomen”, by the way?) – he scored McMaster’s third touchdown, carried the ball 19 times for 121 yards and was named co-winner of the Mark Timpany trophy, presented to the MVP of McMaster’s homecoming game each year.  I very much enjoyed the game, though it was freaking cold sitting up in the stands, and I was thrilled for my friend (Joey’s father);  he had every reason to be beaming a thousand watt grin after the game.  There was no disguising the proud papa (though I noted he has begun sporting a soup strainer over his upper lip that some might argue represented an attempt at going incognito).

I sat in the seats near the west end zone.  There was a group of students off to my right, one of whom had brought a giant foam head to the game.  Now I don’t know if this is some sort of a mascot – I know that the school’s official athletics logo has an eagle incorporated, and there was a guy wandering around the field in an eagle suit – I had almost literally bumped into him as I came in the gate, turned and stared him straight in the beak and said, “How’s it going?”.  I laughed myself all the way up to my seats, wondering how the hell the guy in the eagle suit is supposed to respond to that question.  I mean, after all, it’s one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, it’s cold and he’s wandering around a stadium in an eagle costume.  Anyway, these kids to my right had a giant foam head – an oversized blond male head that actually looked a lot like some sort of video game character.   The group with the head was having a whale of a time, drinking with commitment, hooting and hollering and quite obviously only briefly interrupting an already well-established party with the football game.  As the first half  wound down,  this group filed past me at breakneck speed, clearly headed for the beer concessions.

Now it’s been nineteen years since I last went to a university football game – except for the Vanier Cup a couple of years back, but a national championship game is a different animal entirely.  The departure of the kids with the giant foam head left me looking around the stadium a little bit more to get my fill of the people-watching on offer.  I was struck by how young all the “kids” were that were at the game as students of one or the other school.  There were many sights familiar to me, but unseen for several years – the rowdy boys drinking at a furious pace and who had screamed themselves hoarse about nothing in particular, the obvious “couples” huddled together and cuddling, the obvious student council types darting about and organizing various things, the packs of frosh roaming the stadium and trying to establish themselves in the social order.   It’s hard to explain, but for a moment or two I was moved by a sense of the fragility of all the familiar youth with which I was surrounded;  I became acutely aware that this moment in these peoples’ lives was all too transitory and fleeting, no matter how many pocket digital or cell phone cameras might be produced to take snapshots of today’s friends mugging for the lens, destined to create an image of reminder for an unknown – but certainly different – tomorrow.   It was somehow quite sad, and I found myself waxing rather philosophical as I surveyed the scene with my iPod earbuds firmly planted in my ears to drown out the stadium announcer’s chatter.

With two minutes to go before the second half began, one of the kids that had been off to my right leapt over the railing and on to the field down towards the eastern end of the stadium (off to my left).  This kid was wearing the giant foam head – and no pants.  Now, I don’t know how a person wearing an oversized foam head manages to get his pants off while standing in the front row of Ivor Wynne stadium without attracting the attention of the various security types on duty – you would think that a guy with a giant foam head on might be kind of hard to miss – but this kid managed to (you should pardon the pun) “pull it off.”  And in a flash, he was over the railing and booting it across the field on the diagonal.  He was making a beeline for the southwest corner of the stadium, his skinny legs pumping away furiously as he and his tighty whities made a bid to outrun the now intensely interested security staff.  The kid held the giant foam head on with one hand clasped firmly near his throat area, and the other arm pistoning back and forth vigorously as he made a beeline for the Melrose gate and freedom.   Snapped out of my reverie by foam-head’s hijinks, I looked in the seats down to my right and saw that many of foam-head’s buddies had returned to their seats and were now absolutely busting a gut, roaring with laughter and cheering their friend on, urging him to outrun his red-coated pursuers.

It was touch and go for a little bit, but the kid managed to pick ’em up and put ’em down fast enough to race past the security forces that were trying to intercept him, and he zoomed out of sight of the mostly adoring stadium crowd still clutching on to the giant foam head with one hand while the other was now pumping triumphantly in the air.    

I wasn’t melancholy anymore, but I sure was feeling a touch of the old nostalgia.

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