Are you ready?
Blake and I were talking about paying for our Alabama season tickets earlier. Add that on top of watching the beginning of the 2010 Alabama-Florida game to test out the new soundbar with the new TV, and I’m officially READY for football season to begin. Then one of his brother’s goes and tweets a link to this ESPN article that hits the nail right on the head about living in anticipation of football.
The entire South is about ready to explode as summer ends and autumn begins. Football’s coming. The preseason magazines appear. Wallet-sized schedules materialize on gas station counters. Meals out are eaten over the soundtrack of folks predicting wins and losses — and not just sports fans with fantasy teams and chicken wing sauce on their chins. No, grandmothers in Chanel and pearls get worked up — I mean fired up, brother — about beating LSU…
Winter and Spring
…Each school has its legends. There’s the time a potential game-winning field goal was blown back by a sudden gust of wind, costing Mississippi State a victory over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, removing any doubt which team God himself pulls for (though Alabama fans might argue by quoting Ezekiel 20:29 … look it up). There’s Billy Cannon’s punt return which, almost 50 years after he ran into the Louisiana fog, is still played on the radio in Baton Rouge. There’s Spurrier reminding us all that you can’t spell Citrus without “U” and “T”. There’s Buck Belue to Lindsay Scott, and if you need an explanation, you’ve probably never eaten barbecue cooked at a gas station.
These are the stories told in January deer camps and in spring break condos and over graduation weekend grilled cheeseburgers at Rotiers in Nashville. They keep the dream of football alive until winter and spring give way to summer…
…”I do think that in the state of Alabama,” says Crimson Tide diehard and “Forest Gump” author Winston Groom, “anybody planning a wedding is gonna get out a schedule, because the worst damn thing you can do is have your wedding on the Alabama-Auburn game or the Tennessee game, because nobody will come to your wedding. They had one here like that, but they put up a big old huge TV at the place where they had the reception. One of those big giant things, about eight feet tall.”
“As a matter of fact, in the state of Alabama, I wouldn’t even plan a funeral when Alabama is playing Auburn,” he says. “You can die, but you’re gonna wait ‘til Monday.”
…The hardest damn part of the summer is not jumping the gun. Fans are like players: You can’t peak too early. Right after the Fourth of July, the hype begins building up steam, with all eyes pointed toward the annual SEC media days in Hoover, Ala. — a three-day extravaganza of all things Southern and football. The South devours newspapers during media days. It was always when the season began for me, first as a fan, then as a beat reporter covering the LSU Tigers for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Then, soon after that, practice will start, the clacking of pads echoing in the afternoon heat. The closer the season gets, the more the mood of a town changes. Things move a bit quicker, with a little more intensity than the day before. The local hotels are painted. Coeds shop for dresses short enough to get dates to the games but long enough to hide the booze. The luxury condos that set rich fans back upward of a million dollars for six weekends a year are cleaned and stocked. Even the oaks seem different…
…The band is going full speed, game-day speed, low to the ground and accelerating, a trombone player tapping his foot. Cymbals crash, the notes bouncing around the room, playing a song for our fathers and for our children. I love almost everything about the South. I love the beautiful weirdness of it. I love the burn of catfish right out the grease, and I love the heat of a late-night juke joint, all the songs about heartache and sorrow and pain. I love the mustardy tang of Carolina barbecue on a Sunday afternoon. But right now, I love this moment most.
I close my eyes once more, and I see an ocean of red and blue, grandmothers in Chanel and frat boys in Widespread Panic hats. I see Stephen Wiley Vaught in seersucker and white bucks. I see the green grass of the Grove and the young boys wearing replica jerseys. I see the beautiful scenes of fall in the South, from Lexington to Tuscaloosa, from Fayetteville to Baton Rouge. I see the Vol Navy, and a hand ringing a maroon cowbell, and a cute little girl in pigtails screaming, “Tiger Bait!”
I see football season.