Tiger Bike Night. It’s one of the highlights of our local high school football home season. Local motorcycle enthusiasts line up along the track, and, after the team walks down the line of bikes, they take a lap around the track before kickoff. It’s cool. It’s LOUD. It’s probably the closest representation of what goes on inside the head of a player at the line of scrimmage just before the ball is snapped during a game.
My favorite memory of Bike Night from the days when I still coached was the first time they ever did it. I think it was 2005 or 2006, but those details begin to fade in my aging memory. The details may fade, but the visceral feeling doesn’t (and I hope it never does.).
This Bike Night was something completely new to CCCHS. We stood outside the locker room and watched the bikes drive through the stadium gate and line up in front of the stands at the south end of Otto Unruh Stadium. There was no plan for players to interact with the bikers, so we went back into the locker room to wait for the signal for us to come out for the national anthem and player introductions.
I wish I could describe the feeling in that locker room when the riders began to rev their engines. Words will not do justice to the reaction of the body and the reaction of the fifty odd, crammed-into-a-locker room-collective-of-teenage-boys, already emotionally charged to play a football game, when they felt the roar of the bikes.
It was electric.
The player’s eyes danced as they looked to their left and right at their teammates. Tight smiles formed across the faces. Each understood what the others were feeling. The rumbling and the roar flowed through the blood spiked by the release of adrenaline. They were ready to run through the concrete walls.
Chained power in the revved engines transferred to the hearts of each and every one of us. Energy in motion. Ready to hit the opponent in the mouth with a brick. Ready to shine your shillelagh and charge onto the field. Ready to play Tiger Football the way we were supposed to play Tiger Football.
Balls to the wall.
Hit you like a cannon shot.
Every man, every play.
Clay Center Tiger Football. The way the game was meant to be played.
I appreciated the bike night event. The 2016 Tiger Bike Night is this Friday. I don’t know if I’ll go. I don’t know if I can feel that special ROAR again and not feel the tug on my gut that pulls unrelenting back into that world again.
That grating, tingling sense which gnaws on you like a phantom limb. Always there, yet missing. The world of competing and pushing, pulling, driving, willing over 60 kids toward a common goal each year. All this wrapped up in that visceral rumbling of dozens and dozens of bikes, each revving their engine on the most beautiful piece of real estate in the county. Our house.
Finally, if you find yourself in Otto Unruh Stadium on this Friday Night In America listening to the roar of Tiger Bike Night before the Tigers vs Goodland football game, do old Coach Hays a favor. Close your eyes and feel the ROAR. Feel it in your gut and in your chest. Close your eyes and dream of competing. Close your eyes and appreciate the community of players, coach, and fans in our little gem of a city. Then bring on the three B’s:
Friday Night In America…Biker style!