8/01/2008

The Boys of Autumn



I know we are still in the dog days of summer. All I have to do is step outside this air-conditioned house to know that. But, there is a certain excitement in the air…a certain anticipation amongst certain sports fans. Football is once again about to take center stage. It’s my favorite time of the year! I am much more of a college football fan (Alabama Crimson Tide) than an NFL guy. Most people in the south are more enthusiastic about the college game than the pro game. I realize up north it’s just the opposite. But, college football has a certain passion, loyalty and love that the pro game just doesn’t have. Free agency takes away a lot of the loyalty factor as pro players are loyal to their pocket book. Most college players want to play for good old State U. I know the college game has taken some hits (including UA) with out of control boosters, slush funds and other nefarious activities. But, for the most part, it’s a game of Alabama vs Tennessee, Ohio St. vs Michigan or UCLA vs USC. To me, you just can’t beat that kind of sports excitement.

Today is August 1st. Two a day practices are just now getting started in high school and on up to the NFL. I miss this time of year as a kid. I remember the smell of liniment in the locker room, the smell of shoulder pads, sweaty practice jerseys. I know women can’t relate to that. In fact, when I was in Wal-Mart earlier this week, I had to stop by the sporting goods section for a moment. I went to where they had all the football equipment out on sale. I just had to go smell the shoulder pads again. Same smell when I put on the pads for the first time for the first fall practice. For a brief few moments, I was 13 years old again, preparing for junior high school football practice. It was nirvana for me. But, that ended when the sales clerk looked at me curiously. I don’t blame her. I was probably in a trance for a while there.

I miss being a part of a team, win or lose. I miss being a kid playing my heart out for my school. I miss the crowd, the cheerleaders, the smell of popcorn, roasted peanuts and hot dogs filtering down to the field. I cried after every victory. I cried after every loss. The thrill of a hard fought victory in a football game is something that can’t be duplicated or explained. The heartbreak of defeat can’t be measured in mere words. I can still watch the games. I always will. It’s just not the same as playing. I envy the players on Friday Nights and on Saturdays. They’ll only get to do this a relatively short time in their lives. I hope they know that. I hope they know how much they will miss it once they are too old to play the game. I doubt it. I didn’t know I’d ever miss playing at the time. But, let me tell you, I do now. And, so, I dedicate this blog entry to the “Boys of Autumn.” Enjoy it while you can, boys. Most of all, have fun.

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