Unless you are in school, fall is the best season going. By far. And you are stupid and irrational if you disagree with me. End of story.
The weather is cool and temperate, the sun rises and sets at reasonable times, the foliage is [blasphemy deleted] beautiful, and the underlying metaphor for death and the ephemerality* of all things is transcendentally fucking awesome. The crisp autumn breeze has been giving hacky poets, such as myself, fodder for centuries. But it also inspires artists of a different medium - the strategists, acrobats, gladiators, and gallopers of the gridiron.
For some fall has nothing to do with hay rides and pumpkin pie. It has to do with bonfires and the adrenaline inducing rolling beat of quad tenor drums. It is heralded by that first cold snap one late August night** and that undeniable smell. The smell of mud an dry leaves in the fall air, the smell of sweat and blood and musty old tackling dummies, the smell of Thermoses full of coffee with a little extra kick, the smell of stale beer and burnt hamburgers, the smell of Gatorade and cheerleaders' perfume, the smell of football. Just wanted to make sure I mention the smell of sweat again, because that is an important one.
Football season still makes my skin crawl with the same level of excitement as the first time I saw Jim Brown running to the accompaniment of orchestral strains of "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor." And every time I hear the crack of hardened plastic armor against hardened plastic armor, I am there. I am in the backyard playing pick up football with all the kids from my neighborhood. I am in my family's plaid and wood paneling disaster of a 1970's living room watching the Steel Curtain drop on those sissy-boy, Nancy-boy, pretty-boy Cowboys for another shining silver trophy. I am on my JV team making the greatest tackle of my life in real-time slow motion seconds before irreparable damage is done to the cartilage in my left knee. I am in the elbow-to-elbow crowd of every black & gold fan in the greater Washington, DC area lifting Red up into the air as we finally get that one for the thumb. I am there.
Football is Jim Thorpe, George Hallis, and Pop Warner. It is laughing at Peyton Manning endorsing five hundred products with a tongue-in-cheek nod to how dorky he admits he is. Football is a reason for athletic teenage girls to wear tight sweaters and short skirts and is God's way of letting priests know they better make those homilies snappy.
As I was watching the Monday night game last night at the bar, two guys sitting next to me asked if I knew what the line was. No I don't know what the line is! You can't bet with your heart, and football is nothing but passion for me. Bet on horses or jai alai, but do not sacrilege this game Jimmy the Greek style. And I grudgingly join fantasy leagues. It gives me something to talk to my brother-in-law about, but I could really give a shit what kind of game Matt Hasselbeck is having. My formula for fantasy football is autodraft, swap out injured or bye week players, and have the most clever name in the league. It holds no interest for me beyond that. I have played Madden on PS2, but do not get the thrill of seeing who is better at scrolling through play formations in under 30 seconds.
I would much rather watch Joe Theismann get hit in instant replay over and over and over again. I would rather hear the throaty tones of the NFL Films announcer explaining the subtle beauty of the head slap. I would rather watch some college kid play his ass off in a Division III game that no scout will ever see. I would rather watch Terrell Owens get his comeuppance. That is football to me. I love the history, the pageantry, the future, the promise, the drama, and the Americana of it.
OK, I covered what football smells like, what football "is," my memories and what football means to me, and Joe Theismann's graphic injury. Yep, that should do it. You can long for lazy summer days on the beach contracting skin cancer and avoiding medical waste. As for me, I look forward to fall and the glorious glory of football!
*Red's favorite word, even though I kind of bastardized it here.
**Depending on regional climate and global warming.