It’s that time of year
It is hard to hold back the excitement as the big day approaches. It consumes you as you find yourself watching television, listening to the radio and talking with your friends about the same subject over and over. Finally, when it seems that everyone has collectively reached a fever pitch, a coin is tossed, the ball is kicked and football season has begun.
All across America, high school teams are part of that Friday night ritual that has united local communities for generations. High school football is truly part of the fabric of small town America.
If Friday night belongs to the local high school, then Saturdays belong to the colleges, especially in the South. Everyone is expected to have a favorite team and you plan your weekends around game times.
Auburn played Louisville in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta on Saturday. Mary Lou and I were there, as we will be for most Auburn games. We greeted everyone we saw with a War Eagle, the traditional greeting to and from members of the Auburn family, even if you don’t know them.
The pre-game events went on for hours. Fan Fest, the pregame party at the World Congress Center, was packed with thousands of loyal Tigers and Cardinals. I thought nothing of standing almost an hour for the chance to slap the hand of one of the Auburn players as they passed in the “Tiger Walk”. I cheered the Eagle, the band, and the cheerleaders, all before the game even began.
The stadium was packed long before the kickoff. Everything was over the top, including the hundreds of the little Chick-Fil-A cows that parachuted into the crowd, each with a card attached for free lemonade.
Everyone in the stadium was dressed in either in orange and blue, or red and black. The crowd was screaming so loud you could not understand the announcer on the PA system. Shakers and pom-poms shook in unison as the bands played their fight songs over and over.
Finally, after hours of taunting between fans and yelling cheers at the top of their lungs, the opening kickoff finally took place. Auburn’s kicker put it in the back of the end zone and the game and season are finally under way.
Auburn looked unbeatable as they built a 24-0 lead. Louisville came roaring back until they were only down by a touchdown. The game was not over until the last play of the game. 31-24 was the final score; not pretty, but a win.
We arrived back home on Sunday evening in time to watch a replay of the game on the SEC Network, followed by a viewing of the 1989 Auburn-Alabama game. How much college football is enough?
The answer for people like me is that I don’t know if you can get enough college football. It makes us crazy. We talk about it year round and never seem to get tired of it. We watch reruns of games for years and talk about great plays that occurred a generation ago.
We tease our friends and foes alike over the season. There is no other subject at the coffee shop on Monday morning during the season. We wear our colors to church on Sunday, if we win. We reluctantly take the ribbing if we lose.
Auburn’s opening game was great fun. In fairness, I know that the atmosphere was great everywhere else there was a big time college team playing last Saturday. College football gets in our blood and we just can’t help ourselves.
I should probably feel self-conscious and even a little bit silly about the way I carry on in support of my Auburn Tigers, but I don’t. After enduring the gloating of my Georgia and Alabama friends since their wins over Auburn last year, I am ready. After all, it’s that time of year.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com