For first time in 55 years, Elk Grove's Grams will miss not being in booth
A lot of football players, coaches, cheerleaders, band member, parents and fans will be doing things on Friday night they hadn't thought of a few short months ago.
Friday night was supposed to be the first night of high school football for the 2020 season.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed so much of what was "supposed to be," also claimed the fall football season in Illinois.
It also means that for the first time in 55 years, Ken Grams won't be at a football game, either on the sidelines or in the Elk Grove press box with microphone in hand as the Grenadiers' public address announcer.
"I told someone the other day, this is opening weekend and it'll be the first time in 55 years I haven't been sitting in the booth," Grams said earlier this week. "I don't have any answers but I do have a million questions. It's very strange times."
Grams retired from teaching some years ago but he's remained active in Elk Grove sports, announcing football and basketball games, and as the head softball coach. In fact, his 948 career wins are the most of any active softball coach in Illinois.
"Friday nights in the fall and winter, I'm at high school stuff. That's what I do," said Grams, a longtime friend of former Daily Herald sports editor Bob Frisk, who passed away earlier this year.
"High school football is awesome. The pageantry, the excitement of the start of the high school year. The energy is incredible and I'm going to miss it. I don't know what I'll do. Watch a baseball game on TV, I guess. It's going to be really strange."
Grams, who walks the sidelines at Elk Grove's away games and has never missed an Elk Grove football game in his 55 years at the school, has some fond memories of years gone by, memories he hopes to add to when Illinois plays its football season in the spring.
"Playoff games," he said. "There was a Saturday afternoon game against Deerfield and we had to shovel snow off the field. We had a night game once against Hoffman Estates that went well past midnight. I think it was six overtimes. The fog was so heavy I couldn't see anything. I'm not sure how the kids could. And our original press box was scary when the old booth would be moving back and forth with the weather. It's gotten better over time."
But what Grams will miss the most on Friday nights this fall is the camaraderie that comes with a high school football game.
"Everyone knew where I'd be on a Friday night," he said. "Former students and players would always come up and say hi and that was always special.
"It's where I belong on Friday nights. In the booth or walking the sidelines."