Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Formative Moment #4

I attended a Catholic all-boys high school. My family wasn't Catholic, but our local school system was struggling academically, and I think the guidance counselor at the middle school actually advised my parents that I would be much better off at a different school. I may blog about the reasons for the district's troubles later in my "Children as Political Pawns" series I'm pondering.

Since my high school drew students from all over the region, everyone was a New Kid on the first day of ninth grade. I was very proud of myself for making new friends and sort of fitting in a little bit right out of the gate.

A few weeks into the school year, we had our first all-school pep rally for our homecoming game against The Enemy. My homeroom teacher was also the head football coach. We all marched into the gymnasium, populated the bleachers according to social ranking, as is The Way, and settled in for the show. There were the standard warm up skits by the football players, a little bit of something from the principal, and then... The Speech.

The coach was a short, mild-looking man, but when he turned on, he had a very intense gaze. He started off with a conversational tone in his speech. The team had worked hard in pre-season practice; we have new leadership now that the giants of old have graduated; let's give a round of applause for the junior varsity and freshman teams; etc.

Then his cadence and tone started to get more urgent. He started EMPHASIZING certain WORDS for EFFECT. His pauses... became more... deliberate. And SometimesHeRanTheWordsTogetherToCreateExcitement. Eight or ten minutes into the speech, he had the audience primed. When he shouted something like, "Let's get out there and beat The Enemy!" everyone in the bleachers leaped up and started cheering, including yours truly.

Two seconds later, I thought to myself, "I don't give a flaming rat's @ss about football. Why the heck am I standing up, waving my arms about, and shouting? [pause] That son of a... He MANIPULATED me!" I thought about that for the rest of the day, and I vowed never again to let someone control my emotions and actions to that extent.

"Mr. Horse, do like these political rallies?"

"No sir, I don't like it."

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