Whenever a Rock Hill high school football team makes the state championship game, I go to the place where Rock Hill's football fans have gone since 1948: Red's Grill.
Now that Rock Hill has three high schools -- and two of those, Northwestern and South Pointe, playing each other Friday for the state title -- that just means more talk at Red's about football. I must have heard, "Goin' to the game Friday night?" at least 10 times Tuesday at Red's.
Real people, talking about real things like football in a city where the white collar for many is for church.
The oldest continually operating restaurant in the city, Red's still offers bottomless cups of coffee, grits and eggs and cheeseburgers all the way, to the working people who played, or whose kids play, on those football teams.
In Red's, working the counter and the back, you can find Georgia Hinton and Gene Hinton, married eight years.
"I'm for Northwestern, for one reason," said Georgia Hinton. "I went there. And Gene did, too."
Gene had just told me he thought South Pointe would win. It's "their year."
"I don't care who he's for," said Georgia, speaking for wives everywhere.
But Gene, your bride says you are Northwestern? Have you turned?
"Uhh, I'm pulling for Northwestern," Gene said. "I didn't say South Pointe. I meant Northwestern."
Then, from the far side of the room came the words, "A side of navy beans!"
You know it's a football town, a place of wide shoulders, where football is meant to be debated and argued about by tough guys -- and women who are tougher -- when the words "navy beans!" are shouted.
I looked on the wall menu, and navy beans were on special.
In a far corner sat a guy in a one-piece working man's coverall. The kind people wear who work hard for every dollar they get. Inside the coveralls was a 40-year-old man named Victor White. Rock Hill High class of 1987, White said. Played football himself, a linebacker.
But White doesn't live in the past of his football-playing days. He lives in the present, where he has to work hard. The mud on his boots showed Tuesday. Yet people he knows and works around, talk about high school football and the next generation of players who might make a mark and live forever in somebody's memory. Friday night is a chance for some teenager from Rock Hill to forever change how his name is pronounced and how he will be remembered. So White follows football.
"Three teams now in this city ... makes the rivalry even better," White said. "That's what this game is Friday. A rivalry game. It is the state championship, sure, but it is South Pointe from Rock Hill against Northwestern from Rock Hill. That's the meaning. Two teams from right here fighting it out. I see South Pointe taking it. Sometimes, it is just somebody's year. This is theirs."
I spent a good while at Jazzy Cuts barbershop, too, where sports talk is king. The whole place said South Pointe will win.
The South Pointe versus Northwestern game is the same across town: "The Game."
Nothing else needs to be added.
Legend status is a big load of expectation for high school kids who will play Friday.
But by playing in "The Game," someone might emerge as the legend, as in Greek tragedy or Roman myth. Forget the mayor and the other politicians, or some business big shot. Friday night is a chance for some kid from Rock Hill to become the biggest name in this city. To live eternal.
Guys like Victor White will remember you forever.