Another season changes

As we settle down into the first really cold snap of the Winter, we are more mindful than ever of the changing seasons.  The lingering mild temperatures of Fall have slipped away, most trees are bare, and the green blanket of Southwest Georgia has turned largely brown.
However, talking with friends at the coffee shop and around town, I realize there is more concern about another changing of the seasons, those having to do with sports.  College football is almost done and unless you are an Oregon or Ohio State fan (do you know many of them around here?), the season is over.
We have quietly moved into basketball season, along with snow skiing and other Winter sports.  While there are some devotees to basketball, many of us just wait for the NCAA tournament.  Only two things really matter; getting into the bracket and winning out.  Let’s hope college football doesn’t really go that far with their new playoff setup.
College football in the south is something that is really hard to overstate.  Most of us grew up without a hometown professional team of any type until the Braves and the Falcons moved south.  With the exception of one long run by the Braves under Bobby Cox, neither team has inspired the kind of long term loyalty that a mediocre college football team can generate.
Like many, I grew up pulling for a college football team, in my case the Auburn Tigers.  We would go to one or two games a year.  The stadium was not totally enclosed, there was no upper deck, and you could actually walk on the field after the game.
The cheerleaders and band were part of the attraction and the game would start rain or shine around 1:30.  TV wasn’t a factor and you could count on being home for dinner.  The intensity of the rivalries was pretty intense, even then, but wasn’t fueled by endless talk radio and social media.
Today, you know the minutest details about players who would have been totally obscure years ago.  A soft drink and a burger at a stadium costs about what a ticket to the game did when I was a kid.  You can’t park on the grass, no matter how long you have tailgated in a certain spot.  As many people watch the multi-million dollar Jumbotrons as look at the live action right before them.
I am not complaining about the changes because I am likely one of those that allowed them to happen.  I love watching the action in person but then come home to watch the highlights several more times.  I subscribe to various sites that tell me every detail about every player.  I know more about some players than my own cousins.  
Given all that I have described above, it is no surprise that many will mourn the passing of this season of football.  In the south this year, there aren’t many fans that will endure the Winter by endlessly taunting the followers of the other teams.   The cream of the crop was in other parts of the country, at least at the end of the year.
Show some compassion to your neighbor who looks so forlorn at the coffee shop and give him some encouragement.  Discuss recruiting and pending schedule changes to help him pass the time.  Let him know it is only three months to Spring practice.  
Just like the budding of the trees awakens our souls in the Spring, the building discussion of the upcoming season will rejuvenate those who seem to live only for college football.  You will soon see them smile as they break out their school colors, still another season from the first game in the Fall.
Enjoy the peace while it lasts, my friends.  Listen for that call that comes from every true fan whose team is not at the top, “Wait until next year”.  It is just that season of the year.
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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