The gym closest to my house is less than a mile from Ardrey Kell High School.
But when people there talk football -- and people in all gyms talk football -- they talk about the Carolina Panthers or North Carolina or N.C. State or Appalachian State or Ohio State or Florida or Clemson or South Carolina or East Carolina or Wake Forest or (last season) Michigan.
On Friday morning, however, they talked about Ardrey Kell's home game tonight against Butler. One guy has a kid who plays for Ardrey Kell. Most of the others simply live in the neighborhood.
This is only the school's second season and they're undefeated and now they're playing Butler, one of the top programs in the state. Folks in the gym talked not about whether they'd go but about what time they would arrive and where they would meet. I can not remember a high school football game in Charlotte that sparked this much talk that did not involve Independence.
If you're a Charlotte football fan, and you watch your games on television, consider giving up a piece of your weekend to watch a local team play.
What hits me every time I do is that little has changed in the last 25 years. The bands, cheerleaders, blocking and tackling, the volunteers selling popcorn and soft drinks, the 5-7 kids making big plays and a huge impact, are timeless.
It's an entertaining, and even wholesome, way to start a weekend.