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Friday Night Football Preview: Years pass, but games never get old for these fans
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BY TAFT COGHILL JR.
When Calib Garland worked as a bodyguard for the Secretary of Congress in the 1990s, he once hitched a ride home from Africa on Air Force Two, the United States aircraft carrying the vice president.
Garland usually didn’t fly home on that plane, but he was in a hurry. He wanted to get home to Spotsylvania County to see a Fredericksburg-area high school football game.
Garland, 63, has been a fan of the area high school scene his entire life. And after he met Jim Pearman in 1985, the love of the Friday night atmosphere intensified.
Garland and Pearman began a formal two-man “bus tour” in 1994.
The two Spotsylvania residents estimate they’ve witnessed 300 high school football games since then.
Tonight, they’re going to visit Woodbridge to see Colonial Forge (6–0) take on Hylton (5–1) in a nondistrict clash.
“We love high school football because it’s so pure,” Garland said. “You don’t get that with the pros and you don’t always get it with college.”
Garland said he and Pearman “have bought a lot of band uniforms” with the money they’ve spent on 50–50 raffles and other fundraisers.
They first met when their sons played for Courtland in the 1980s.
They were introduced on the bleachers, and their families immediately bonded.
Their sons became best friends. Their wives grew closer, too.
After their children graduated, Debbie Garland and Jessica Pearman stopped attending games. But their husbands continued on.
“It’s unbelievable for two people to go to ball games that long after their kids have graduated,” Debbie Garland said. “You don’t usually see that.”
Calib Garland proposed to his wife in 1972 at Maury Stadium, where James Monroe plays its home games.
Garland is a former three-sport athlete at Spotsylvania, so he said Maury holds some of his fondest memories.
“I got my [butt] beat there a lot,” he said with a laugh.
Debbie Garland knows how much her husband loves high school athletics, so she doesn’t mind.
Before Jessica Pearman died in 2010, she and Garland had their own Friday night interests. They would go shopping or out to dinner while their husbands partook in their favorite activity.
“It’s a partnership,” Garland said. “He supports me in the things I like to do, like gardening, and I support him with this.”
The trip home from Africa isn’t the only time Calib Garland or Jim Pearman have made football a priority.
Garland was at a North Stafford game in 2001 when he began feeling severe chest pains. He sat through the game and could barely walk back to his car. The next day, he found out he needed open heart surgery.
Garland had surgery the following Thursday, was released from the hospital on a Sunday and was back at a football game Friday.
“I told Jim to come pick me up,” Garland recalled, “because I’m going to a ball game.”
Pearman, 69, was told in September 2011 he needed knee replacement surgery. He postponed the operation until January of this year.
“I wasn’t going to miss any games,” he said.
That was evident two years ago, as well.
When Jessica Pearman was in need of hospice care, Debbie Garland would sit with her on Friday nights, so Jim Pearman could watch high school football.
Jessica Pearman was also supportive of her husband and Calib Garland.
She ordered hats, T–shirts and sweatshirts for them. She even had their planned schedule printed on the back of the shirts.
Without her good friend, Debbie Garland said she now “curls up with a good book” on Fridays.
“You don’t know how much I miss her,” she said.
Calib Garland’s interest in athletics isn’t limited to football. He watched 144 baseball games this year, and now owns a radar gun so he can record pitch speeds.
He filled up four scorebooks as he attended high school, college, major league and minor league games.
He visited every Cape Cod League stadium when he and his wife went on summer vacation.
During basketball season, he watches every boys and girls state championship game in Richmond.
“If there’s a ball,” Pearman said, “he’ll be there.”
Pearman is usually alongside him, especially during football season.
Both agreed that Maury is the best place to watch a game. They said Riverbend has the best concession stands, Colonial Forge is the most convenient and Brooke Point is the least accessible.
Garland said the 2008 James Monroe team was the most fun to follow. Pearman said the 1987 Courtland squad is his all-time favorite.
“It’s been going on forever and we love it,” Debbie Garland said. “It’s a Friday night thing. It’s what they love to do.”
Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526