MONIQUE BATSON — Madness was fun as a student, but there’s nothing like watching it through your kids

Published 12:05 am Friday, September 24, 2021

I “crossed the tracks” just a few years after graduating from high school. Or, more-accurately, I went back home. But for one week every year, I am a traitor among friends. It’s all said in jest and part of the fun, but I abandoned my D-O-G-G-I-E-S for the I-N-D-I-A-N-S. (Admit it, you’re hearing “Cherokee” in your head right now. Regardless of what team you root for, it’s a catchy tune.)

From 1st through 6th grade, I primarily attended PNGISD schools. My 1st grade teacher was my oldest son’s 1st grade teacher — and she’s still a 1st grade teacher. I went to the same Port Neches Elementary School that all four of my children attended. And while I also went to Port Neches Middle School, it looked a little different then than it does now.

It was in 7th grade that my mother remarried and I relocated to Nederland for the remainder of my grade school years. Nederland High School was where I met my best friend (still, 25 years later), found my “first love” and had some of the best days of my life.

But my children have never known anything but purple and white. And honestly, once you cross those tracks, it truly gets in your bloodstream. I think I have a little over 40 purple and/or PNG-themed t-shirts. Twice I slept outside the stadium entrance for 15 and 18 hours respectively — once for Madness tickets, and once for season tickets. But we had a great time. Just being part of this entire week has always been fun.

When I was younger, it was a little less friendly than it is now. I remember being at an 8th grade football game in Nederland where a giant “I” had been burnt into the 50-yard-line. And with a mother that graduated from PNG and a father that graduated from Nederland, their stories of Madness week were downright criminal, especially when it came to vandalism.

And God-forbid you take a person from the other team to homecoming or prom. It wasn’t a Madness rivalry; it was a city rivalry.

I’m so glad things have changed since then. Not only do I have several friends that have swapped from one district to the other, but there has become this sense of unity we share for 51 weeks of the year.

I remember in 2017, when my oldest was a varsity football player, both PNG and Nederland played at NRG Stadium during the second round of the playoffs. We played back-to-back — Nederland first, then PNG. The purple people showed up early to support our neighbors, and black and gold filled the stands long after their game ended to support us.

And while the excitement hasn’t ended, it’s become even more fulfilling to watch the excitement through my children. As mentioned, my oldest played football. My second was a photojournalist for the school paper. My third is currently on the drumline. And my youngest, while now just a freshman, will be at the game tonight as a teen without a parent for the first time. (I have to work, but my parents will be there… just on the other side.)

For years I’ve painted faces, arms, and legs; dressed them up for “Nerd Day,” and made some very crazy hair-dos. I watch them load up on photo buttons of players and sideline stars. The drummer always has an after-dinner with his band friends. And the entire week is filled with excitement.

It’s truly the most unpredictable game of the season, and brings with it an undeniable electricity and sense of fun that can’t be matched.

And while I can’t be there, I’ll be following along closely to see my Indians reclaim that trophy — wait, sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud.

May the best team win.

 

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.