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Brendan Largay, Head of School

On What Would Have Been Friday Night Lights

For the sports fans out there, the sub-narrative of the first months of the pandemic was the absence of the games we love. If you don’t know this about me yet, I am a rather rabid fan of sports. It was only during the pandemic—on nights when I couldn’t sleep that I found myself watching Korean baseball games or reruns of competitive cornhole tournaments—that I realized just how important sports are to my everyday life. (Yes, professional cornhole tournaments are for real; and, yes, I seriously found myself watching them.) The bottom line here: I missed sports desperately.

Then, just as they had disappeared, the sports world came back to life with play for all four major leagues happening … at the same time! The timing was somewhat unfortunate for me with a mountain of work to get the school ready for reopening. But still, it was a welcome distraction when I had a moment fit for distraction. The Bruins and Celtics were in the playoffs, the Red Sox were back (on the field and in uniform, at least), and the Brady-less Patriots were back as well. My school reopening filter of health and safety led me to question some of the decisions made by these leagues about fan and player safety; nonetheless, I appreciated the return of game action. And I realized that there will likely never be another moment when all four leagues are playing at the same time. 

At a school that promises a whole child education, one of the great challenges we faced planning for this fall was determining how to offer robustness in each of our programs, including, of course, middle school athletics. With the creative thinking and hard work of Abbey Nyland, John O’Neill, Eric Ridore, and Alex Tzelnic, in conjunction with Deborah Brissenden and the program task force, we have successfully struck a wonderful balance of preserving our safety protocols while honoring our students’ need to get the physical exercise that is critical to a full and challenging educational experience. So why, on October 23, am I feeling compelled to draw attention to the connection between our program and the world of competitive sports beyond our walls? Tonight would likely have been our annual Friday Night Lights event at Harvard’s Jordan Field against the Meadowbrook School of Weston.

In years’ past, on the day our boys’ and girls’ soccer teams are to compete at Friday Night Lights, this column has recognized why the love of sport and, closer to home, a commitment to physical education and athletics is such a critical part of a whole-child education. Friday Night Lights holds real magic for our community. Belmont Day, as they say, ‘travels well.’ We arrive at Jordan Field in full blue-and-gold regalia, cheer our hearts out, and witness students enjoy a thrill that will last with them forever. It is a celebration of so much of what we value at BDS about our athletics program, and our community, and this year, it is an experience we will acutely miss.

As with so many things, it took a pandemic to prevent us from participating in the magic of Friday Night Lights. Its absence is made sharper by the contrast of the professional sports world’s return to some degree of normalcy. However, in its absence, I remain so proud of our teachers and students for their continued commitment to excellence in their own physical education as a critical and preserved underpinning of our program. As the saying used to go in these parts, “we’ll get ’em next year.”

Have a great weekend, everyone. Go BDS!

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