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College Football Is Back, and the World Is a Better Place

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer ISeptember 1, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 3:  In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy, a Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy celebrates during the 106th Army vs.Navy football game on December 3, 2005 held for the third consecutive year at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Midshipmen have won the past three Army-Navy battles to even the all-time series at 49-49-7. Navy has accepted an invitation to play in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego on December 22.  (Photo by James G. Pinsky/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The ticket stub is perfectly preserved. It looks new, like it could have been from a game last fall.

The face tells another story:

Pittsburgh vs. Navy at D.C. Stadium, Oct. 16, 1965, upper deck, section 535, row 2, seat 20.

Annapolis, MD and Navy football were the perfect combination for a young boy. The late '50s and early '60s were even better. It was a simpler time, a great way of life, a gift of growing up in the home of a Navy officer and his wife.

The world was a great place, especially those Saturdays in the fall. College football, Navy football—there was nothing better.

It was a gift to see not one, but two Heisman Trophy winners play for the academy—Joe Bellino (1960) and Roger Staubach (1964). It was once in a lifetime in a place of youth, a place of happiness, and a pure gift of football for a young boy.

There was no better place than a crisp fall Saturday afternoon at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The brigade of midshipmen marching onto the field is etched deep where those memories of a lifetime are stored and replayed. The anticipation, the excitement, the joy of youth returns. The world was a better, unspoiled place back then.

Football Saturdays in Annapolis led to football Fridays in high school, but the attachment to college football always called.

East Carolina University became home for football Saturdays in the South. The late '60s and early '70s made it a time like no other. The tradition, the excitement, the bands, the students all created an atmosphere that continues today.

Those Saturdays were packed with joy and worked their way into the fiber of life right beside the memories of Joe and Roger and the middies.

Ten years of sports writing never dulled the enthusiasm. The press boxes of some of the country's most famous stadiums continued the journey. A young man made friends with the newly hired head coach at Florida State, and for some reason, Bobby Bowden took a liking to the new kid from Tampa.

The young writer would meet Bowden on the field before Seminole games. Bobby would reveal the FSU game plan, reveal his concerns, and then tell how he'd try to overcome them on offense and defense. It was trust and access that doesn't exist today. It gave football Saturdays new meaning.

They became a time to learn, a time to write about a sport that had claimed me as its own many, many years ago.

Bowden made a run to the national championship game during those years and went to the 1980 Orange Bowl to face and eventually lose to Oklahoma.

Didn't matter—it was and has been a journey like no other. It is the journey of college football, a journey that begins anew every fall.

College football Saturdays—is there anything better?

Another season is upon us. It's here, it's back, that loving constant in life that returns year after year.

Glancing back at the Navy ticket stub, memory tells me it was my last Navy football game. Navy won 12-0. Can't remember the record that year; it was the first year AR—After Roger.

Miss those days, miss the brigade, miss Annapolis, and miss the Navy officer who raised me.

But holding the ticket reminds me and perhaps reminds all of us that college football is born again this week. There are hopes and dreams of huge victories, and there will be those unbearable defeats.

But what matters most is that it has returned to us once again.

And that makes the world a better place, at least on Saturdays.

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