Grab a shovel. I’ve brought plenty for us all.
We’re digging a hole, and I don’t know when we’ll stop. When we’ve reached the proper depth to throw it all in—and perhaps no such hole can be dug—we’ll climb out and bury it. Bury it all.
The first few days after the final act are the most peculiar. You’re a zombie, but there is no more flesh. Nothing left to feed on. It’s only you and the darkness. When the final whistle has been heard, you see the foggy but familiar road ahead. You can only see a few feet in front of you, but you do know one thing.
233 days is a long time.
Typically, this phase fades, and you return to some non-football normalcy soon enough. Your wife loves this time and wonders who exactly she was married to the last five months. You rediscover things such as the treadmill and attempt to relearn the finer points of this strange game referred to as “basketball.”
The regular season has a routine, and so does the offseason. There is no schedule, but you’ve still mastered the absence. Fires, hires, arrests, suspensions and departures are sporadic but sprinkled throughout. You anticipate these filler items as a way to cope without the game being played. You don’t root for chaos, but it occupies.
Pick up the soil, but don’t lift with your lower back. You’ll hurt yourself. We’ve got a long way to go. How long? I just don’t know. Keep digging until you can’t dig anymore.
Last year, it was about the business. It was about money, networks, conferences, teams, egos and dollar signs. The athletes—the true cogs to this enormous machine—fit in here somewhere, although I’m not quite sure where. Neither are they.
Realignment made what we already knew very apparent: This game we’re drawn to is controlled by men with much different, grander intentions. Teams moved, others tried, conferences folded, others went from death row to a position of power. Money matters, brand is everything and it’s all about surviving and thriving. You can put your pennant down. It’ll do no good here.
We looked into the face of greed and stared right back. We didn’t like what we saw, but we had no other choice but to deal with it. Our offseason routine was disrupted, but we made it. Just like always. The worst was over…it had to be.
Don’t break for water. There’s no time for rest. It’s a good start, but we must go deeper. We must find depths unseen, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll fit it all.
You were just finding your way, finally adapting to a fresh routine when that morning came. A man that won 298 college football games passed. It was January 22.
At the time of his death, it was difficult to process what he meant. We didn’t have the whole story—we never will—but we know enough now. We know that the games he won were very real. We know that there was much going on behind the curtain. We know that the term “games” has never felt so insignificant.
He had many more wins at the time of his death, but those are gone now. Erased from the record books. You remember those wins, although you’re not quite sure about what they stand for now.
As his legacy came crumbling down, so did that 1,000-pound hunk of bronze with its finger pointed to the sky. It was covered and taken out of sight.
Seasons later, it feels like he’s been dead much longer. There’s nothing metaphorical to dig from that, but instead a reminder of what a long 233 days it has been. His death was beginning of a process, a process that is still in its infant stages.
Can you see the surface? We’ve done all we can, and this hole will have to do. I wish we could go deeper, but there is no time. The upward climb awaits.
The rest of the offseason went as planned.
One of the brightest offensive minds in the game crashed a motorcycle that ended up costing him his job. The country’s finest playmaker was kicked off his team and went to rehab just a few weeks before the season. Coaches were fired and hired, players were suspended, realignment resurfaced and the blueprint returned to form.
And after more than 100 years, college football got a playoff. It was hastily put together and will undoubtedly open a gateway to more, but incredible progress was made to get to this point.
Still, the routine was aborted long ago. We were lost from the get-go.
We’re almost to the top. I know your arms are tired, but I can see the sunlight. Whatever you do, don’t look down. Just a little bit further.
233 days later, we’ve made it. The darkness is giving way, and sunlight is sneaking over the horizon. Your wife is very aware of this sudden calendar change and what this all means. She’s not ready, but she understands the cycle. It’s different this time, however.
Our routine is no more. We’ve seen rock bottom. What we've seen and heard, we can't forget even if we wanted to. This offseason has taken its toll.
We’re greeted on the other side by a familiar face, and we’ll smile and embrace him with open arms. The transition will be more unfamiliar than it’s ever been, but one we’ll gladly make. It’s never been that dark before.
We have a new routine to learn—one you could master in your sleep—but still one to master nonetheless. When someone asks what you're doing or where you came from, just nod and make a gesture to the green grass on the vibrant TV screen. They won't be able to turn away, and neither will you.
As for the past 233 days...let's never speak of it again.
We’ll plant some trees on the fresh soil when the hole's covered. Whatever kind you like. They’ll take time to grow, but grow they will.