alifornia School for the Deaf, Riverside was all aflutter with activity. The football field was blindingly lit. Clumps of parents stood around in awful flourescent yellow vests proclaiming “Event Staff” in black letters. A long line of cars waited patiently to pull into the parking lot. I parked by a tree and made my way to the football field in time to see the kickoff, winding my way through a busy avenue of red easy-ups selling food, Riverside t-shirts, and phone services. Kids ran here and there throughout the vast crowd, a sea of sporadic red. Some of them had paws or “go cubs” drawn on their faces in red lipstick as they ran. I took my place awkwardly at the back of the crowd, trying to find a spot where I wouldn’t be in the way, but could still see the football game. As I watched the crowd around me, the cheerleaders trying to excite the crowd and the game happeining on the field, it struck me just how similar and different this event was from the events I had been to at my mainstream high school.
A festival atmosphere surrounded the crowd. It was impossible not to notice how excited everyone was to be there. As I joined them, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the crowd was in comparison to a hearing crowd of the same size. There was very little talking going on, with everyone signing excitedly to their neighbor. Hearing children would run by me, chattering to their friends as they went, and students stood talking quietly in little groups. People were constantly walking by me on their way for another drink or a funnel cake, and they would inevitably be stopped by someone who was thrilled to see them. It seemed to me as if the whole crowd knew each other.
There was a cheer squad standing on the sidelines in red outfits. They stood in lines, high school aged girls in red and white cheer uniforms and little elementary aged girls in white t-shirts with red pleated skirts. They did several routines clumped together on the sidelines, staying together as well as if there were invisible music playing. At half time when they spread apart onto the field, they weren’t as united as when they had been clumped together, but they were still very good. As the night wore on, the littler girls joined the crowd and the cheerleaders started throwing things into the audience. Suddenly, people were waving their arms and cheering at the girls, just to get a little football thrown their way. It was the first time all night that the crowd seemed interested in what was happeining on the field. The cheerleaders were great, but somehow they didn’t seem to hold my interest like they normally do at a game.
On my way back from the snack booth at half time, I ran into Red from my Deaf Culture class and I realized that she was standing with a whole group of people who I also knew. I joined them, chatted a lot, and tried to keep one eye on the game. For some reason, I had such a hard time paying attention to anything going on out there. Every once in a while I would look up and realize that the score was different, but there had been no fanfare to tell me that things had changed, no collective cheer or groan from the audience about another touchdown being scored.
Overall my experience was great, if a little unusual. It took me a long time to find people I knew in the crowd, and I spent most of my time feeling outside of things. At the same time, people tapping my shoulder to ask me to move or signing “excuse me”, and being otherwise treated politely like a true member of Deaf Culture, made me feel like I belonged. While things were remarkably similar to the Homecoming activities I remembered from my own days in high schoo, the lack of noise and the lack of attention payed to the game really marked this event as different. I think that if I knew more people there I would have loved going to Homecoming. As it was I had a very good time and would certainly go again.