It was my first "Friday Night Lights" experience. I'd never seen so much excitement over a high school football game. I'm pretty sure that the fans in the stands supporting the trinity Trojans for this non-playoff / relatively regular season game outnumbered some of the college games for my alma mater.
My memories of high school football were pretty tame in comparison. Most of the fans were either students who had friends playing or parents who had children playing. But in Texas, it's a different story. Some games are broadcast on local or regional sports channels; there are usually weekly high school football sports shows; and there is a tremendous amount of community support from alumni players who walk the sidelines, alumni in the stands and just people who live nearby and love to root for the school.
The Trojans have been doing the Haka for a few seasons now, and whether there is any correlation between the dance and their success, or it's just mere coincidence- one thing is certain: it certainly amps everything up. The fans seem to enjoy it as much as the players. I don't think it has the possibility of getting "old" – it's just a very short burst of incredibly intense energy that you can almost feel.
As I walked through the players and shot some video with my mini-dv camera while they yelled phrases that Maori warriors began chanting hundreds of years ago, it was a bit intimidating. Everything is bigger in Texas, including the size of most high school football players. Throw some pads on them and get them close to their primal self through a dance like the Haka, and the players look ferocious.
There are plenty of Haka videos online, and perhaps with this story, we'll be adding another. Colleges from Hawaii to Utah (schools with large Polynesian populations) have their own versions to fire up crowds. There are other high schools around the country that are adopting one version of the dance or another.
Next time you want an inexpensive and entertaining Friday night -- where the sport hasn't been adulterated by big money endorsements and the game hasn't been slowed by TV timeouts -- head to a high school football game. Grab a meal of nachos and Gatorade from the concession stand, and who knows? You might just witness a primordial battle-cry at a stadium near you.