Often, many of the most memorable stories of football field take place not only off the field but far from the stadium. The thrill of homecoming day endures as an American tradition, even for those who never take a step between the sidelines. Some traditions, in fact, spill outside the walls of the school and into the neighborhood beyond. These traditions show the continuing grip of high school football on the nation’s recreational life.
Even dismal performance on the field can’t dull the excitement of homecoming day. That’s especially true for Terry Parker High School in Arlington, where the team has not challenged for a postseason berth for nearly a decade. The 2014 season has brought particular disappointment. The Braves went three games in a row without a single point, suffering blowout after blowout against even lightly-regarded foes like Andrew Jackson High School. But no one would know it from the pageantry of the annual homecoming parade.
The Parker homecoming parade holds a unique place in Arlington community life during the fall. In this decades-old tradition, the school’s band, cheerleaders, players, and supporters march east along Merrill Road and south along Townsend Boulevard in a parade of nearly two miles. In the school’s heyday, local residents lined the streets, with hundreds of students walking along amid the deafening blasts of the Parker band. The crowds and the band have shrunk to a fraction of their former size, but festivities still reign among participants. In this picture, the band rounds the corner of Merrill and Townsend on its final approach to the school. Unfortunately for the Braves, the parade couldn’t bring victory on the field, as winless Parker tumbled hard to visiting Middleburg in a 38-8 thumping.
For many who walked the route, though, the final score will vanish quickly from the memories of a week of celebration. Homecoming week charges the atmosphere with anticipation, whether for a state title contender or a cellar-dweller at 0-10. Parker’s passion, even in a slightly curtailed form, illustrates this phenomenon vividly. The Braves can take heart from this, however: They have nowhere to go but up. Perhaps in the coming years, the Braves’ dormant on-field fortunes will revive and the Arlington parade route will recapture its luster of old.