WILY: Friday Night Lights

High school football is big in Massillon, Ohio. In fact, there have been at least two documentaries in the last twenty years about the sport in the town where I live: 2017’s Timeless Rivals, about the Massillon Washington - Canton McKinley rivalry and Go Tigers which was released in 2001 and features the subtitle “Massillon, Ohio. Where they live, breathe, and eat football.”

I’m very familiar with the century-plus rivalry with McKinley, having grown up in Canton and graduated from the school in 1992. For the last twenty years or so, I’ve owned season tickets at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon and have been at just about every home game during that time.

I work about forty miles north of Massillon, much closer to Cleveland than home, and where most of my co-workers have probably never been to a Tiger game. After more than a season of describing the experience - tailgating, the stadium that seats more than 16,000, fireworks, indoor practice facility, video scoreboard, and one of the state’s biggest and best marching bands - I was able to talk eight of my teammates into making the journey and taking in a game. For some of them it meant close to an hour and a half drive, so the stakes were high.

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After some fairly heavy rain Friday afternoon, the clouds cleared out and the temperature dropped to an appropriate reading for fall football. The Tigers won 46-40, but that wasn’t the best part of the night.

I had plenty of help in trying to give them the Massillon experience. A group of friends invited us to their tailgate, where we had Kraus’ Pizza, John George’s subs, and tiger tails from Liebermann’s Bakery (all Massillon institutions). Another friend invited us to tour the press box and Booster Club meeting room, which is full of Tiger history. And, we even ducked on the field for a quick photo with the inflatable Obie.

I believe that everyone had a great time.

But, I also learned an important lesson as we took in the evening. Outside perspectives are important. As I wrote earlier, I’ve been going to games at the stadium for two decades. I’ve seen the sights and even take them for granted. Sometimes we come late or leave early, we never tailgate, and we’re so used to the scoreboard and fireworks that we don’t really notice them. But, on Friday my friends helped me see everything like it was the first time.

The same true with projects. Make room on your team for members who are removed from the work or problem that the project is to address. Sure, it’s important to get the input of those most impacted, but if you bring in someone who doesn’t deal with the subject matter every day, you’ll benefit from their reactions, questions, and advice.

And, if you’re looking for a teambuilder, nothing beats a high school football game. Especially in Massillon, Ohio.

Don’t forget to celebrate with some fireworks.