One. More. Game.
That is all there is. And then I must wait six looooooong months until it returns.
FOOTBALL. Football is America. Football is community. Football is tradition.
For me, football is the best season of the year. Don’t get me wrong. I love winter’s chilly weather and cozying up with a good book by the fireplace, or summer’s long, carefree days spent with friends at the beach, but nothing beats a good football game.
From late July through early February, football is available practically 24/7. There is training camp, preseason, the actual season, postseason, all culminating in that one final game—the Super Bowl. At its peak, the season offers an endless variety of football options. Friday nights: high school games. Saturday: college games. Sunday, Monday, and Thursday: the NFL. (Poor Tuesday and Wednesday; they must feel somewhat left out.) Who is playing and when? The answer to this question drives how I schedule each week in the fall.
My world has not always revolved around football; I first discovered the sport when I was ten years old. My parents had been avid football fans before I was born, but they took a hiatus for about a decade (from what I now know to be the best part of the year) because their only child (me) had not been too interested in the sport. Now, THAT is what I call love. I’m not sure I could have made that sacrifice.
For the past six years, my year has taken on a certain rhythm. I am either (1) waiting for the football season to begin, (2) experiencing delirious happiness during the actual season, (3) feeling anticipatory anxiety that the season is nearing an end, or (4) trying to cope with the melancholy that sets in after that final game. These are my four seasons.
Over the years, I’ve seen some truly once-in-a-lifetime games: Auburn’s “Kick Six” touchdown return after Alabama’s short field goal attempt on the final play of the game for an Auburn win in the 2013 Iron Bowl; the Patriots’ comeback win over the Falcons after being down by 25 points in the third quarter in Super Bowl LI; and, most recently, the “Minneapolis Miracle” with Stefon Diggs making a sensational catch on the final play of the game to complete a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired, securing a Vikings’ win over the Saints and sending them to the 2017 NFC Championship Game. Hollywood simply cannot script stories like these.
Of course, we all have our favorite players, our favorite teams, our favorite rivalries. There are also those teams we love to cheer against. It is all part of the football experience. In my family, we have our favorite NFL players (me: Tom Brady; Mom: Adam Thielen; Dad: Drew Brees) and our least favorite college football teams (me: USC; Mom: USC; Dad: USC—we are all diehard UCLA fans). No matter who you follow, though, every team and every player has a story. It is like reading a new chapter in a good book every week. But, like all good books, the weeks wind down, and the stories come to an inevitable end.
The old adage that “one cannot know joy without pain” comes to mind when playoff season arrives. It signals the harsh reality that the glorious six-month football stretch is almost over. Come February, I will start to feel the pain. The void will set in. Sure, there is basketball—March Madness and the NBA playoffs are temporarily distracting. The French Open and Wimbledon can be inspiring. And, baseball games on warm summer nights can be relaxing and fun. But, they all have one thing in common: they are NOT football.
February 3 is near . . . the Super Bowl. It is like a sacred sports holiday. Family and friends will gather to enjoy their favorite foods, watch overpriced commercials and overrated halftime performances, and—most importantly—experience football one last time.
I both long for it and dread it simultaneously. What follows? Six more looooooong months.
But then, it all begins again. The cycle of football.
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