We took our son to his first NFL game this weekend, something we plan to do every year now.
Our favorite team won -- a rare feat this season. But even if our Raiders had lost, we still would have had fun.
Nothing like being a true fan, at your home stadium. Our son watched every play, wore his Raider eye patch, and yelled for the defense at all the right times.
A 6-year-old, he even suggested that we fans "need to distract the Chiefs so they will get a delay penalty." No kidding, two plays later, that's what happened. He was proud of how he "helped" the Raiders win. Can't do that while watching on TV. (Seahawk fans do things like that all the time. Raiders, not so much these days.)
Anyway, to witness my son experience an NFL game for the first time, to high-five and chest bump him, to teach him that everybody in the stadium who was wearing the same colors was family, well, it was worth every dime.
It was his first NFL game, but it was not his first football game.
Proud to say his first football games, in person, came a few years back, in Clark County. A high school doubleheader at McKenzie Stadium, in fact. Just 3 at the time, he picked the team he wanted to win in the first game by the colors of the jerseys. For the second game, he wanted the team with the cool band to win. (Nope. Not going to tell you which teams.)
Since then, he has been to a few games every year, always sitting in the stands with Mom while Dad is up in the press box. And as much as I enjoy the job, I'm a little jealous of them. They don't have to work. They don't have to keep stats. They don't have to write on deadline. They can just be fans.
Which is not to say I don't like covering the games. I love watching and reporting the games. It is just that when I actually go to an NFL stadium, for example, I get to remember what it is like to just cheer.
I cannot do that at the high school games, but you can. And while you might like the Seahawks, the Blazers, the Huskies, the Ducks, or other major college and pro teams, I hope you are taking advantage a great fan experience at such a value.
Most of us cannot afford to fly to Oakland and buy tickets to every Raider game. (Heck, most of you wouldn't want to.)
But we can afford a season's worth of high school events.
There might not be 60,000 fans at a high school game (or 40,000 in Oakland) but there are passionate fans in just about every gym, every stadium, around every field.
A La Center football playoff game has just as much of a big-game atmosphere as a Camas playoff game. Just more fans at the Camas game. By the way, both bands are awesome, too, which just adds to the ambience.
You don't have to follow a perennial winner to be a passionate fan. (Raider fans have lived this going on 10 seasons now.) I witnessed a great basketball fan base at Heritage last week. The Timberwolves struggled last year and are improving this year, and their fans who were there for a non-league game were really into it.
It was fun to see students screaming for their classmates.
With pro sports, we have our favorite players. But we don't really know them. With high school sports, we do know these athletes. Or, at the very least, we know someone who knows them. There is a true connection with them. They are part of us, part of where we live.
So my family will go see our Raiders play once a year in person. But I'm proud to say we will see a lot more high school events in person.
Here's hoping you are taking advantage of the inexpensive night of competition and spirit at a high school near you.
For the price, it is the best entertainment value in our community.
Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @360paulv. And always remember, Silver and Black forever.