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TOWN TALK: Dundee-Crown’s powder puff football game a mash-up of eras and memories

Parents watch Dundee-Crown powder puff game way people watch
all public events these days - taking pictures video with phone. |

Parents watch the Dundee-Crown powder puff game the way people watch all public events these days - taking pictures and video with a phone. | Mike Danahey/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 17, 2013 6:09AM

I missed the girls’ powder puff football game tied to homecoming when I was in high school, so I decided to revisit a past I didn’t know by tagging along to see a buddy’s daughter play last week at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

We threatened to wear body paint, but neither of us could find anyone who would help us apply it.

When I was a teen, homecoming in Illinois happened later in fall, which usually meant bleak weather, soggy floats, heavy coats and a general Cleveland-ness about things. Back then, there was no such thing as soccer, which was being played on a field next to the powder puff game. Guys played basketball in shorts the length of which parents fret their daughters wearing these days.

But bad fashion choices are part of being a teenager in any generation.

Which is to say, if you wear your hair like a member of the singing group One Direction — like at least two young dudes in the bleachers I saw at the game — eventually you will regret it, probably even more so than the kid wearing long, blue athletic socks with shower sandals and long gym shorts will when he looks back at his digital yearbook decades from now.

Silly dances have always been part of adolescence, too. Today’s Harlem Shake, in fact, might very well be nothing but a cruel take on a retirement home version of the Lindy Hop. And some kids still know how to stop and break it down for Hammer time, just like in 1990.

Still, songs about bootie shakin’ have gotten more graphic and have morphed to have deeper, more simplistic bass parts over the decades. Disco bass made you bop your head. Bass today thumps like shoes pounding on aluminum bleachers and makes your car shake.

I know this because no sporting event — or much of anything else in America today — can happen without a constant bombardment of the senses via electronic means, from smartphone nonsense to tunes blasted on a PA system.

The powder puff game was no exception. What was disconcerting was a mix that held songs more than 30 years old that today’s teenagers know.

“YMCA” by the Village People came out — so to speak — in 1978 and, despite its connotations, became a wedding staple from thereafter — perhaps paving the way for the gay rights movement. “Mickey” by Toni Basil hit the charts in 1981, predating the rise of cheerleading culture and what I am sure will be its eventual inclusion in the Olympics.

But still. Imagine high school kids from 1978 digging “Twelfth Street Rag” by Pee Wee Hunt, which was Billboard’s top song of 1948 or teens in 1980 humming along to “Good Night Irene” by Gordon Jenkins and the Weavers from 1950.

More time-warping was the theme of the Dundee-Crown 2013 homecoming — the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz,” which I am pretty sure was the theme at mine. A ref got into the spirit by wearing his ruby red shoes — with a green wig and striped socks, which confused me even more.

As for the game itself, powder puff ain’t quite what it was 10 to 15 years ago. It’s flag football on a shortened field, contact is kept to a minimum, and there are no fumbles, with a muffed ball ending the play.

A waitress where I had gameday lunch said that when she played, two girls went to the hospital with powder puff-related injuries. One broke her nose, then had to pose for homecoming court photos with a black and blue face — which is way cool!

These days, of course, the bruising could be removed from the shot with Photoshop — and the incident leading to it would be recorded on a phone and offered on social media.

In the game I saw, most of the girls ran faster than I can hope to, even if I was being chased by the neighbor’s German shepherd. At least two can probably throw farther than I can. Of course, the seniors won, as nature intended.

Sure, it was a bit odd watching all this on Sept. 11 — but also fitting. Time passes, life goes on, and people have moments to enjoy.

My buddy’s daughter Tristen had a good night and might even like to play flag football again next fall in college. Her dad took a lot of pictures and gave her a hug after the game.

He always ends an outing by saying, “Have fun” instead of just goodnight and/or goodbye. That’s a pretty good philosophy of life in any era — and part of why we are such good friends.

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