'Home Field' Looks Great on the Coffee Table
With a forward from Buzz Bissinger
By Mark Fagan,
7:40AM, Sat. Aug. 28, 2010
I'm a sucker for big sports-related coffee-table books with lots of beautiful glossy photos. So when Jeff Wilson's Home Field: Texas High School Football Stadiums From Alice to Zephyr showed up on my desk, a slight bit of drool formed in the corner of my mouth (TMI?). With a forward from Mr. Friday Night Lights himself, Buzz Bissinger, I knew this was a keeper.
As part of a photo essay for Texas Monthly in August of 2005, Wilson set out to document high school football stadiums in Texas by taking a photo from the 50-yard line on the opposite end of the field from the home bleachers – but not during the height of tension of a Friday night game. Instead, Wilson photographed the stands empty, with not a player (or fan or coach) in sight.
An interesting decision that brings out the unique character of each stadium. Wilson states in the inside jacket, "The promise of an empty football field is an irresistible force for those who understand and revere the game."
Maybe so, but it did take me a minute to adjust to page after page of empty, seemingly lifeless, stadiums considering the sports sensory overload I'm used to with the constant barrage of cable-TV action. But once I settled in to Home Field, I was hooked.
In describing the inspiration for his own book (Friday Night Lights) and Wilson's, Bissinger states, "[there is] a haunting beauty, an almost mystical enchantment, a sense that a high school stadium in Texas is not simply a high school stadium in Texas but a shrine, a temple, an epicenter of small-town life more important than the Baptists church or the local barbecue joint."
I don't think many Texans would disagree. For a self-appointed "damn Yankee" like Bissinger to understand the grandeur of Texas high school football shows the power of the sport and the significance the home-town teams have to their communities, and even to complete strangers. Even to damn Yankees.
Home Field captures the impressive structures of stadiums like Austin's own state-of-the-art Chaparral Stadium and sets them against the dingy single-bleachered Falcon Field in Veribest or the humble green bleachers of Dragon Memorial Stadium in Bangs. Some new, some old. Some high-dollar, some not. But all of them hold the hopes and dreams of their cities within their grounds.
Accompanying these photos are loving essays from the likes of quarterback legend Colt McCoy, school athletic directors, first-grade teachers, PA announcers, school superintendents, sportswriters, other former high school football stars, and you get the point. These essays help to fill in the stories that lurk behind the photos of the empty stadiums.
Considering I've been to far too few high school football games in my life (and even less college games), Wilson's photographic homage and the accompanying essays have got me primed to hit House Park, Chapparal Stadium, and Burger Stadium (down the street from my house!), to name just a few, on at least one occasion this season, if not more.