Granted, this is a day earlier than I wanted to post it, but I figured with tomorrow being Gameday Eve, no one was going to be able to read this in time to get as hyped as I am. Before I go any further, I'd like to offer my condolences to all affected by Hurricane Katrina. There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. You're all in my prayers, except for those who steal TVs, Nike shoes, and other non perishable goods to "survive."
Now, the rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrest of the story (thanks Paul Harvey).
11 times a year, hopefully 12 or 13 depending on how good of a year it is, one family comes together to wish each other a blissful day full of laughing children, great food, and fond memories of times passed. This family knows each other by name only sometimes, and more often than not, they communicate with waves, smiles of approval, and the occassional random shout from across a crowded street. Mostly everyone is happy. Those that are not are usually already sunburned or full or hungover; just pick your poison. But most just want to relish in the fact that they're at a place where they'd most like to be, surrounded by people most like them, and all in all, it feels like family.
11 times a year, sometimes 12 or 13, people cheer in unison, sulk in defeat, shake hands in peace, and offer food to complete strangers.
11 times a year, sometimes 12 or 13, a fall day can be reminiscent of a summer one. It can remind you of how you worked so hard to get where you are now and how this wasn't just another day, it was an experience. One that was unique unto itself to be tucked away in your memories and not to be confused with other days similar, but not equal to it.
The best part is all this has happened, and it's not even 11 a.m. yet.
Then you begin your ritual. You have already met those around you, listened to legendary calls from the great Larry Munson, dreamed of the days within the 1980 football season and opened up the cooler to make sure that yes, you did bring the hot dogs.
I would say the beer is cold, but maybe you're drinking mint tea. Maybe you have decided that water will be sufficient since it is a little hot outside. Maybe a cool Jack and Coke or Beam and Coke will get you done at least until noon. It's your day. You do what you want with it.
So you grill and you visit. You tell your kids or those who just happened to stop by about how you went to school in that building right there and how it sure has changed over the years. You remember tripping on that front step as a freshman all the while being embarrassed because that was the first time you realized you weren't at home anymore. Little did you know, that was the first day of you becoming the man you are now.
Then you think, this isn't a football game. This isn't just a gameday. This day and those like it are not excuses to party like you did in college and get away with it. This day is meant to bring you together with the memories that get tangled up in the busy lifestyle you lead now that's full of 401ks, gas prices, and a war that you support but rarely understand like you think you should. Today is so you can relive a simpler life all while "cheering" on your favorite team. But you know as well as I do, that it's only football and it's only a game. It's the experience, and the experience is what makes this unique.
So you begin the march to the stadium but kickoff isn't until another 2 hours. You are going to see the official beginning of the activity. You behold a sea of red and black all standing patiently, waiting for the machine that is the Redcoat Marching Band come strutting through the parking lot. They sit and they wait. They allow little children to get "the best view in the house" by standing next to their legs and not stepping on tiny toes. After all, when the Dawgs finally march through the sea that has been parted in a way Moses would be proud, you know that the RCB is just like those children, except they're taller.
The Dawgs begin the march through and everyone cheers. They don't just cheer, however, they encourage, they support, and they talk to men, who are still kids, like they were blood related. "We've got your back D.J.", "Go Dawgs!", and "We believe" can be readily heard muffled in the crowded mess. You think you said it, but by this time, it's gotten so loud you can't be sure.
Then the Dawgs pass and the band becomes one solid chunk again. Everyone goes silent and one lone trumpeter sits atop a bridge, the same one you're on. In fact, he/she is right next to you and you hear what you've been waiting for....
"Mine eyes have seen the glory..."
Oh yes, it gives you larger goosebumps than when you read "Seven Notes on a Trumpet
" back in March. You've waited for this...and now it's here.
Kickoff. We win. Again.
So the after game ceremony begins and you are finishing with tidying up your area and getting ready to go home. You've had a couple more, but just to mellow you out. I mean, you were something at that game. Never sat down one time. You definitely do not want to be one of those "typical alumni" that never cheer. You're there for a reason and damn it, you fulfilled that promise.
And just before you pack up that last chair and move everything back to the house, you sit down and watch the sunset slowly over the buildings. You want to listen to the post game show but it's all a big blur really and you're just absolutely exhausted. One thought does enter your mind however:
10 more times, or 11 or 12 if we have a good year.
Until next time kids.