|On fall Friday nights, as the sun descends below the Western horizon, bleachers fill in cities and small towns across the nation. A ritual played out under bright lights will help define the lives of those gathered and will teach the boys who play about competition, honor, hard work, defeat and victory. Communities are galvanized by the struggle for victory on playing fields throughout the American heartland. Football is the number one topic of conversation. Community spirit and pride are strong. The game is a contest among players, but it also symbolizes the fans' desires to cling to their own youthful enthusiasms.
Six-Man Football is the exotic variant for towns too sparsely populated to field an 11-man team. In this fast-moving game, with fewer players who play offense and defense, six-man football becomes a wide open game full of razzle-dazzle plays. The rules are slightly different. Each player is eligible to catch passes. The teams compete on a field a little shorter at 80 yards and a little narrower at 40 yards than that of conventional football. With 12 players, fans can easily see the hard-hitting action and the tremendous effort of boys who often play both offense and defense. Mercy is built into the game. There is a "slaughter rule," which stops the game the moment one team's lead extends to 45 or more points, during the second half. Pride in the team's fortunes unites the entire community. One can see the support in store windows, on car windshields and on the local hamburger marquee. The six boys on the field and their eager back-ups on the bench know that with each snap of the ball their school, their families and their town are willing them to victory. Such is the import—and joy!—of Six-Man Football.
LAURA WILSON, photographer and author, documents Six-Man Football with 90 black and white photographs. Troy Aikman contributes the foreword.
Previous award-winning books by Wilson include Hutterites of Montana and Watt Matthews of Lambshead. Another project, Avedon at Work, will be published in the fall of 2003. Wilson's work has appeared in The New York Times.