I’m a sports fan, and football has always been my favorite spectator sport. Still is.
But it isn’t like it used to be, and I don’t love it as much as I once did.
I’m not a big fan of the transfer portal — unless my favorite team happens to land a few good ones which it has. Gone are the days when it was unusual for a player to abandon ship for a rival.
No telling where this business of paying players for their name, image and likeness (NIL) is headed. What once got universities, including my alma mater, put on probation now apparently is legal.
Betting on games is now legal, although I don’t think the players are supposed to participate. But those sports books seem pretty easy to use.
Alcohol that used to be slipped into college games is now legally served if you buy it from the home school’s vendors.
That actually may be a good thing, as far as curtailing drunken rowdiness goes. Some people may not consume as much alcohol in $8 beers as was in the whiskey they used to slip in.
Bottom line is collegiate football has about become professional football, with the colleges serving as the minor leagues, and the fans and taxpayers paying the bills instead of the NFL.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the exuberance of fans that sometimes leads to fights.
Somewhere around 1950, give or take a year, I was on the traveling squad of the Petal High football team, although most of my game time was on the bench that year.
I was never one of those athletes gifted enough to announce on Facebook — had there been such a thing back then — that I was “humbled to announce that I have accepted a scholarship to Alabama.” I probably wouldn't have been humble with that kind of talent.
At any rate we were playing at nearby Moselle where there once was a high school. They’re part of the Jones County school system now.
The fight started as an altercation between a former Petal student, who had been allowed to roam the sidelines, and the guy, obviously from Moselle, who was manning the down marker.
The young man with the down marker, which then was something like a wooden box attached to a pole, apparently was provoked by criticism he was receiving from the Petal man. So, he hit him with the marker and then ran onto the football field.
A reporter — who shall go unnamed — from the Hattiesburg American was also on the sidelines covering the game. For some reason he got involved in the fight.
He told me years later he was just trying to break it up, but all the commotion caused fans from both sides to pour onto the field and engage in the biggest free-for-all I ever saw.
Players on both sides were not involved. Like the rest of them, I got my helmet on and got out of the way.
At some point, I’m not sure how, order was restored by the officials and the game resumed.
I was reminded of this by a report on the Enterprise-Journal web site reporting that Walthall County sheriff's officers stopped Friday night's football game between South Pike and Tylertown after a fight broke out among fans.
Sheriff's officials said the game ended with eight minutes left in third quarter “due to precautionary measures.”
They said they received a report of shots being fired at the game around the time officers were breaking up a fight but could not confirm if any shooting actually happened.
That’s another difference between then and now. There were plenty of fist fights in my day, but not as many of us were packing guns as in the current environment unless we were going squirrel hunting on Saturday after Friday’s game.