“Preparing for Football”
Each day seems to be the highest temperature of the year, the thunderstorms roll in from the Gulf, and the humidity will make you sweat as you head off for work. Some talk about global warming. Others discuss the Dog Days of Summer and how they survived as kids without air conditioning.
For true Southerners, however the talk this time of year inevitably turns to the upcoming college football season. It is a ritual formed after generations have reinforced their allegiances with their team’s championships, near misses, blocked punts and bum calls.
We recall the names of players from our past quicker than we can name our second cousins. You recall what you ate at a tailgate a decade ago faster than remembering what you ate at your own wedding reception. The memories become part of our story over time, often not to be confused with the facts.
I had a delightful dinner in Auburn this past week with four other men who all follow their college teams as closely as I follow my beloved Auburn Tigers. There was a Georgia Bulldog, a Florida Gator, a Florida State Seminole and a Mississippi State Bulldog present. It was a delightful dinner with good discussion about teams past, present and future.
Sometimes I wonder what men used to talk about this time of year before there were twelve games on the television every Saturday. Satellite, cable and pay TV have almost eliminated the need to attend any game in person. Yet our stories were often about the atmosphere on a Saturday afternoon rather than the game itself.
It is not enough to know the players on your team anymore. To carry on a good conversation, you need to know the potential recruits from the top three grades in high schools across the country. Blogs, websites and magazines have made following the recruiting trails almost as important as the games themselves. Never was so much known about so many obscure high school athletes.
Every game was played in the afternoon during my time at Auburn. Now, you often don’t know the kickoff time until days before the game. That makes it a bit challenging when you are trying to decide about reserving a two day minimum, no cancellation hotel room priced above $400.
All these complaints don’t matter. The true fans will follow their team wherever they go, no matter the cost or inconvenience. I don’t think it is really even the outcome that drives us as much as the chance to be part of something bigger than we are. For Tiger fans, it is the love of being part of the Auburn Family.
Yes, I did enjoy the civil discourse at dinner between five different college football fans. The passions of our rivalry allowed for compliments and respect for the other team’s players and coaches. It made me hope that for some it really is just a game rather than an enormous money making machine.
Perhaps the best part of the dinner conversation was that not once, not even for a second, did we discuss politics and the Presidential election. There was no interruption on television about what Trump said or what Hillary did. It was just football.
The truth is there are only 27 days until my team’s first game. Forget about global warming, Presidential elections, war, weather and the price of oil. Football season is almost here, finally, and it is time we get prepared.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com