The Mountain Boys: Meet the Patriots Night

A wave of thunderstorms is pushing across the Tennessee Valley.  The August heat flees like a coward, routed farther and farther with each blast of thunder rolling out of the belly of the storm. 

Tonight is a special night, one that even the rain cannot spoil.  There are three events scheduled at Brewer this evening: First, team pictures.  Second, a greeting time for the families called Meet the Patriots.  Finally, the team will hold its first scrimmage in front of those in attendance. For the anxious parents, tonight is their first real taste of Brewer football.  For the players, tonight is their first chance to slip on their real uniforms, forsaking the dingy, numberless white practice digs. 

The campus is bathed in a sort of misty, dreamy coolness.  The sky, exhausted, looks drained of color.  It stretches from horizon to horizon, an expanse of the emptiest kind of blue.  The storm has left behind tiny remnants of clouds stranded on the mountains.  These little patches of fog shift and creep, like ghosts climbing on the treetops. 

The storms have pushed the photograph session back by an hour or so, and this delay has left the schedule in shambles.  Parents arriving for Meet the Patriots file into the wet bleachers and wait patiently through the team pictures. 

To further the general confusion, the state association has sent a large group of officials-in-training to work the scrimmage as part of their evaluation.  A dozen men in striped shirts loiter next to the concession stand, playing with their whistles and waiting for the scrimmage to begin.  It is a truly odd sight, like something out of a coach’s secret nightmare. 

The players finish their pictures and are herded by the coaches straight into the bleachers.  Perhaps a hundred family members are scattered throughout the rows, and the football players climb the steps in waves, stopping to shake hands and speak to the fans.  Although it is impossible to listen in on every conversation, by the way the players and different families interact, it appears as if everyone pretty much knows everyone.  I keep expecting another contingent of Brewer players to appear and join those already in the stands, but none are coming.  This is all there is.  

A common lament around here is that not enough boys in the school want to play football.  This might seem like a tall tale, a farce that a school in rural Alabama would have a shortage of football players.  But it is apparently true.  Parents and players alike tell me that there are students every year who are big enough or athletic enough to make a contribution on the team.  They just don’t want to.  So deep is the stain of losing, so sorrowful the Patriot mythos, that prospective players shy away year after year.  As the story goes, they always offer the same stinging line:

I don’t want to play for a loser.   

The irony is not lost on the current players: no one wants to play because the team isn’t very good—because no one wants to play.  One by one, the players swear to me that they will turn things around anyway. 

The Patriots are on the field now.  The red squad lines up against the blue squad for the first play of the scrimmage.  The coaches on the sideline seem to be shouting more sets of commands than there are players on the field, in particular the singular “LIVE! LIVE! LIVE!” to remind the players that, yes, this is for real. 

They are small, and there aren’t very many of them, but here they are. 

The ball is snapped and the lines collide.  Receivers carve their routes into the soggy grass.

One more season is underway.  Once more into the breach with this Gideon’s army.

The defense clogs the passing lanes.  The pocket breaks down around the quarterback.  Happy feet.  Nowhere to throw.
One more chance to knock the rust of losing off the goalposts.

The quarterback tucks the ball and sprints down the field.  The defense arrives, and he gives his best juke.  It has begun.


Catch up on the Mountain Boys series here:

Part one: The Mountain Boys

Part two: Crowe

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.