GOOD MORNING FOOTBALL FANS:
We finally made it guys, the first college football Saturday of the year. We find ourselves enjoying the last few days of warm weather. The kids are all over Facebook bemoaning the start of school, family vacation pictures litter your feed, and sports radio has been talking about fixing baseball for the past 72 hours. But those days are soon over, the swim trunks and tank tops will soon be replaced by sweatpants and hoodies, and we can all rejoice, autumn is here, and that can only mean one thing: College Football. (AND IT’S COMINGGGG TO YO’ CITAYYYY)
The season of Fall has always been my favorite, and I can’t tell if it’s strictly because of College Football, or just like 98% of the reason. I think in this state of Michigan it is undeniably the most scenic time of year. The colors changing, animals out about, foliage at full bloom, streets lined with orange and red leafy canopies over head. It also indicates hunting season draws near, the sports dead season is coming to an end, and the ideal Michigan weather will be here to hit us once about every 6 days. (63° and Clear sky- don’t even talk to me low 80’s people, I want to actually do something outside besides melt. Fat boy weather.) Fall activities surrounding Halloween and Thanksgiving are around the corner, from backyard football to haystack rides, and we get one final respite before the dreaded winter weather (and even worse, Christmas music).
The days getting noticeably shorter are the first clue that football is around the corner, as those Friday Night Lights need to be on for a reason! We can finally awake from our summer slumber to a chilly Saturday morning, not so cold you need to put on socks, but just cold enough you tuck your feet into your sweatpants. You get your coffee and can at last, saunter down to your man cave and turn on College Gameday (an absolute MUST). Today they are running a special on UNLV’s third string QB overcoming some adversity, you are enthralled by Tom Rinaldi’s poetic speech. And you find yourself caring deeply about UNLV’s depth chart, it is an emotional space you didn’t know you had until now.
As the autumn noon fast approaches, signaled by the arriving of a guest picker on College Gameday, you find a way to twist the fact that Katy Perry picking your team to lose is actually a good omen (she obviously can’t know anything, right? She went 7-2). You eagerly await Corso’s headgear, and your heart warms from watching Herbstreit deftly guide Corso through each segment, from putting his head gear on straight, to holding his hand as thousands of fans jeer the old man for picking against their beloved home underdogs.
Noon arrives, and seven if your team doesn’t play at noon, there is something worth watching. You stumble over to ESPNU and suddenly watching Pitt vs Ohio (if that doesn’t have future Belk Bowl match-up written all over it) IT MATTERS NOT. As it signals the dawn of a new season. You take solace in the fact that your squad is at least better than these two teams (boy I sure hope so) and revel in the sounds helmets on pads and sub-par sports casting. Hope springs eternal as you convince yourself that THIS is the year for your team. You invent reasons for optimism. Somehow your new offensive coordinator will make your team better at defense too! Who cares if you lost 18 starters! PFF ranks your quarterback is 43rd in the nation (sorry Florida fans) Those guys are idiots! Nothing and I mean nothing can break your optimism. It’s magical moment as the teams kick-off, everyone is undefeated for a brief moment, and we watch the TV with the same boyish anticipation we had when we opened our big birthday present that mom had saved for last back in 2006. (Golly I hope it’s an Ipod Nano.)
The 3:30 slot is often monitored less closely, frequently replaced by checking your food plot or finishing any honey-do’s you might be able to crank out in a flash. If your team isn’t featured you find yourself fighting a nap, a natural come-down from the rush of emotions college football being back provides. And of course tonight you’ll fall asleep to some Pac12 football, wondering if you heard correctly the score was 49-38 at halftime and thinking somehow the channel got flipped to basketball. God Bless you Pac12, learn some tackling.
But the year will go on, and like the leaves, most of our dreams of hanging on, will have already cascaded to the ground. Swept away and kicked to the curb with any illusion of grandeur destroyed. But for some lucky fan-bases (usually at least one in this great state of Michigan) the talk off playoffs stay evergreen. Text threads between friends of the program populate our phones. We start eating up the blog posts (not this blog though, I only destroy) and sports pages hyping up our team. We begin to fantasize about being in the room with the committee, arguing our case of being a top 4 program. We circle the big games left, counting on one hand how many rivals are between you and a shot at glory. You brush off the naysayers with confidence.
And somewhere around the 7th or 8th game. Viewings become sacred, you silently wonder if this is the game that will become the cornerstone of that miracle run-of-a season. Full on sports mysticism kicks in, and watching from the same spot in the same room becomes pivotal. Team colors displayed proudly on every article of clothing, fight song blaring, smack-talk in peak form. Halftime food proceedings are not only extravagant, but somehow pivotal to second half success. Burning the pizza sends a bad vibe throughout the house, a vibe you hope stops at your front door and doesn’t find it’s way to Ann Arbor (or East Lansing, whatever). Your emotions become so intertwined with the team you can’t even take a moment to sit back and realize your entire week might me in shambles if this 19 year old kid can’t run a ball forward 3 feet on this next play.
I know for me, watching the game is serious business. I’ve turned away friends and family from watching with me due to their… shall we say “unprofessional”… viewing habits. (Don’t even think about inviting to Buffalo Wild Wings.) I have so many emotions, and thoughts, and outbursts, and time, invested into these three and a half hours of TV, I can’t afford to be encumbered with someone else’s generally incorrect assessments and emotions. I keep it a pretty tight circle. Ever had to experience a crushing defeat amidst your enemy before? There is no greater salt in the wound. Or even worse, watched with someone who just simply enjoys to poke the bear. (Here’s to you Travis Ripper.) That has to be avoided at all costs, so instead I choose to watch and celebrate by myself silently to avoid risk of having to mourn publicly. Do I realize how insane this sounds as I type it up? Yes. But do you realize the day Michigan lost Appalachian State there was a party at Trent’s house and I had to keep walking away in the woods in order to not let others see me cry? (Again, Thanks Travis) SEE?
But I want everyone to know, you people who are rolling your eyes and don’t understand, College Football baits you into this type of behavior. Some of us are crazy sports piranhas, and college football is the metaphorical blood in the water. First, the nature of the season is unlike any other sport. Your team will play a maximum of 15 games, and it cannot lose more than 1 to have a shot at a championship. It cannot lose more than 2 and have a shot at winning it’s conference, and it cannot lose more than three if you don’t want hear a stat all summer talking about how many top ranked wins Harbaugh has in his first four years at Michigan (please make it stop). Every game of college football provides that March Madness like intensity, each and every play is a step towards destiny or ruin. Every. Saturday. Matters. It feeds into the illusion that you are helping your team from your couch, each program with it’s own set of traditions. Such as the players touching the banner, tapping the play like a champion sign, firing the cannon, storming down the hill, or singing the song, (<- CLICK THAT LINK DANGIT) you too at home participate in your own routine. I was going to tell you mine but that feels like bad karma, they might stop working. This is my football inner sanctum, and you’ll never touch my ark.
And of course, for all fan-bases but one (that usually being Alabama). Those hopes and dreams end shattered. You can only hope that when it does end, it ends unceremoniously, and not enshrined forever with a football shaped scar on your heart. And a ringtone your rival sets on your phone when you leave it unlocked (it isn’t funny Jimmy, stop calling me). But it’s a good hurt, like a post-workout burn or ripping off the band-aid, eventually you’ll be able to collect yourself and look back at the joy you had. From roasting that cupcake team by 50 to seeing the improvements your unit made, you’ll be a proud general listing off all the achievements your team has amassed. Your own little version of helmet stickers. And of course at one time or another, every fan finds themselves saying, “there is always next year”.
I don’t even know what the point of the post is but to celebrate (And maybe sort of explain my special case of insanity). The Countdown is over. There is exactly zero days until college football. I can’t wait to get on this roller coaster of emotions with you all once again. I’m not crazy, it’s college football.
Check back in for weekly recaps of the football week that was.
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