Football: The Fifth Season
Many different people have a different idea of what a “perfect day,” or “El Gaupo,” means for them.
For some, a sunny summer day spent at the beach might be their “El Gaupo.”
For others, their “El Gaupo” might be fishing.
For us, “El Gaupo” is a big scary man who wants to kill us.
Wait. Something feels jumbled and unrelated…. Oh well.
For the record, I love summer. Days go on for, well, days. The nights are similar to the days, just, well, darker. You spend as much time as possible avoiding behaving like an adult, going to as many lakes, rivers, and BBQ’s as humanly possible over a three month span. You spend much of this time preparing for or recovering from a mighty hangover, all the while trying to forget how to regret.
And when it’s all over, you have a lot of memories, maybe even a few that will stick out over the years. You go back to school or dive back into work, and start living for the weekend again.
And that is how summer becomes fall.
Nothing is quite like summer. It offers a feeling of freedom and elation that can never really be replicated long-term.
Autumn is pretty nice also, and it also offers something than cannot be replicated.
I am not talking about futbol, soccer, or association football.
I am talking about OUR football. American football.
It is the only sport that necessitates having a 24 hour a day, year round network.
Football, the most celebrated of all American sports, is a year round season for a lot of us, even if the athletes only actually play during half of the year.
It is the only sport out of America’s “big three” of Football, Basketball, and Baseball wherein the collegiate season mirrors the professional version.
From August to February you can find both college and professional games somewhere, with the pinnacle of the seasons happening about a month apart in January and February.
Summer may offer days with an itinerary of wakeboarding, a BBQ, a kegger, and a bonfire in a single day, but it can never replace the greatness of college football.
I know some of you “calendar experts” are thinking that summer and football work hand in hand, that the football season kicks off in August and that summer does not officially end until September 21st .
Let me be clear: I don’t give a crap what the calendar says. You cannot tell me you honestly sit there on September 15th thinking it is still summer. You did not think it back in 10th grade when you were stuck back in class, and you don’t think it now. I am here to tell you once and for all to forget the whole equinox/solstice crap, and be aware that summer actually ends as the sun sets Labor Day, which this year is September 6th .
And by the way, preseason football is completely meaningless. It is just a tease. It is so pointless that NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell has launched a plan to remove at least two of the four preseason games. Since the college season generally does not start until Labor Day weekend and the NFL season at least a week after that, summer and football rarely work together.
Sometimes, every so often, summer and real football can co-exist.
Just last summer we were all treated to a Labor Day game between Miami and Florida State. The rivalry, dormant for years, was finally relevant again. The game lived up to its billing, going back and forth for four quarters, and actually came down the final play to be decided.
I honestly can’t tell you what I did for Labor Day last year, but I remember that game. I remember Christian Ponder and Jacory Harris going toe to toe, pick for pick, score for score. I remember that it was Ponder’s low throw that was dropped in the end zone as time expired.
I remember calling my dad right after that final play, and dissecting the game. I remember thinking both teams were destined to be great again, I remember the game starting at about 5pm Pacific time, and I really can’t tell you what else happened before the game that day.
It was the perfect transition between summer and regular life. It gave us all something to talk about before class or at the water cooler back at work the next day.
That is what great football games can do for us.
Sometimes you can’t help but bring up a great game during regular conversation, only to be reminded the person who you are telling was right there on the couch beside you the whole game.
On the flip side, you, like me, probably every so often reminisce with people about a game you watched together, only you didn’t. That is how great the truly great games are. Sometimes, they make us forget who else was there to see it, just that the game was that amazing.
The fact is, football season is the fifth season.
To some of us out there, it is the only season. We don’t care about anything else.
If you are a truly passionate football fan, no sport ever really matters as much. You may have a favorite basketball or baseball team, and you may even follow that team with a similar level of interest, but it is not the same, and you know it.
We have fantasy leagues, and TV shows about football, and sports networks guiding us through fantasy drafts and fantasy rosters. It is so insane that FX actually has a fantasy football based plot for a sitcom.
Being a football fan is a lot like being a vegetarian. (C’mon, don’t tell me you can’t see where this is going). You concentrate your efforts on one sport (vegetables) and one sport alone. You might consider the other sports (meats), you may even try them. But you know at the end of the day exactly who and what you are.
A beer chugging, meat eating, chip crunching, salad avoiding, flatulent football-osaurus.
Come to think of, being a football fan is nothing like being a vegetarian.
Literally, not at all. Oh well.
Is there another sport that you would seriously consider watching three or four games at the same time? Don’t you feel a little bored every time a game is on and there is not another game to watch during commercials or at least scores to check? Even if it is one of the best single games you have ever seen, which there were quite a few last year. And during each one I was checking other scores or checking another game on at the same time.
It’s an addiction. It really is that simple. Nothing quite compares to it. Nothing ever will.
You have spent time watching Canadian Football, Arena League, UFL, ESPNU replays, NFL network replays. You bought the America’s Game series or recorded it. You watch SportsCenter in the mornings and evenings. Every time they mention football, you sense yourself becoming just a little more intrigued.
You get up early on Sundays to watch the countdown. You go to the sports bar in town and watch eight games at once. You subscribe to the NFL RedZone channel and spend more time watching that than with your family, unless there is a TV and a BBQ involved.
You watch the Sunday night game even if it sucks. You watch the halftime highlights even though you watched those games in their entirety earlier in the day. You watch the Monday night game, even if it sucks. You watch it all, and maybe even follow your list of pick ‘em games that probably hinges on Monday night’s game if you did your homework that week.
You spend enough time at work updating your pick ‘em list and re-ordering your fantasy roster, enough to be in a serious amount of trouble. You do this even when you are facing a sure loss, or even a sure losing season.
Football brings out the best in the sports fan. During the Basketball and Baseball seasons, other sports come in conversation. This does not happen in football, unless someone asks you who the Kobe of football is, which is obviously Tom Brady. Once LeBron James made his decision, everybody turned their heads in Brett Favre’s direction, indicating a “your turn” calling.
It is such a widespread disease..er… mania that ESPN is covering training camps. TRAINING CAMPS! It’s pre-preseason football! Who in their right mind is watching that? I am, and I know you are too! And we are bored every second of it, but we cannot turn away.
I know no matter what, I will watch every game the NFL has to offer.
I even watched the Detroit-Cleveland game last year, expecting a 3-3 abomination. I was treated to one of the most offense heavy games I have ever seen. If I had known nothing about football at the time, I would have had to assume that Matt Stafford and Brady Quinn were two of the best players in the league.
This is why ESPN must exist. We cannot have people thinking that!
There must be professors of sports running the numbers and being talking heads and telling the people what they must know! This is more important than a final exam in class, this is a final exam in real life. Say the wrong thing on a test and perhaps you managed enough correct responses to pass. Say the wrong thing about a player in a bar near an intoxicated person, who may have a beer bottle they can break and threaten you with, and you may have a brand new gash or hemorrhage to deal with! I know damn well broken beer bottles do not generally cause hemorrhages, but drunks are creative! DO NOT RISK IT!
I know that watching the Ohio State-USC game on a Saturday night last year was a real treat. I know at the time I thought the OSU defense quit more than McKnight and Barkley shredded them. I know I still think Barkley will be a so-so QB, just like Leinart, and you can quote me.
I know I love nothing more than the chill in the air on a Saturday night or a Sunday morning when you are watching a really great game, be it college or pro. It’s frigid outside, you and your friends and family are huddled in the bar or on the couch watching a game on the edge of your seats. And in the end, win lose or draw (yes McNabb, there are draws. How did a pro QB not know that? And even if you could go to another overtime, his response should have been “I am really sorry Eagles fans, no team other than Detroit and Cleveland has any business not beating the Bengals”)... I am getting off track again.
And in the end, win lose or draw (deep breath, move along this time) you know that you will be in pain from all the smiling. Or else the Joker will find you and fix the problem.
God bless America, I love football. Class dismissed. I hope you found this message quite entertaining.
Casey Mabbott is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report when the editors think enough of his work.
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