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Guest opinion: Friday's game 'a testament to how much we like living here'

September 01, 2010 - By Joe St. Henry

Special to The Review

It wasn't much of a contest last Friday night with Lake Orion routing Oxford in a revival of the long-overdue rivalry with our neighbors to the north.

But, the game's result won't be the lasting memory of the glorious late-summer evening and start of yet another high school football campaign.

I sat at the game with a friend from Lake Orion who played against Oxford in the early 1980s and whose son now plays for the Dragons.

Unfortunately, the kid has absorbed more than his share of significant injuries over the past few years and he was hurt again this summer.

There were concerns he may miss his senior year of ball. A shame, considering the work he had put in to prepare for this season.

My friend and his son got very good news early Friday afternoon, however, when he was cleared by his doctor to suit up against the Wildcats.

To say mom and dad were thrilled would be an understatement. More importantly, the smile on their son's face at game time was brighter than ever.

When he stepped on the field in the second half of the lop-sided game, none of us knew right away how to react. After it quickly sunk in, mom and dad led family and friends in cheering for him. None of us knew how long he would be in. One play, ten plays – it didn't matter.

But, couple of minutes later, Coach Bell called his number to run the ball and mom seemingly jumped six feet in the air in delight.

Dad simply mentioned how proud he was of his son.

As he watched his son take a hit, my friend talked about how much it meant to him to be part of the football team his senior year.

No matter how much or little playing time he got. It was important for him to belong to something bigger than himself. He was with his friends, many of whom he has known and played sports with for years growing up in this big, small town of Lake Orion.

It would be a good weekend at his house.

The stands were packed on both sides of the field this night, a testament to how much Lake Orion and in Oxford love their schools, student athletes and Friday night football.

More importantly, I think it's a testament to how much we truly like living here.

Despite the explosive growth of both towns over the past two decades, it appears our sense of community – our need to belong to something bigger than ourselves – is as strong as ever.

Whether you're a native or moved here in recent years, the feeling is undeniable.

Survey metro Detroit and it's clear communities like ours are unique. We live for Friday nights and the comradeship they instill in us. In fact, we care about each other every day.

But, like a lot of folks in this state recently, I've wondered what it would be like to live somewhere else where the economy is stronger and outlook a little brighter.

The renewal of the Lake Orion and Oxford gridiron rivalry and unbridled joy of my friend's family last week in the stands reminded me of why my family has stayed in the community, where we both went to high school. Where my oldest daughter goes now.

It's nice to see the same faces every week. Walking through the neighborhood. At the store. Sitting in the stands.

There's a connection to the past, the present and, hopefully, the future.

Besides, if I lived elsewhere, I would probably have missed the big Dragon victory and his son's triumphant return to the football field.

We're all looking forward to the next game.

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