Shhh! If you listen very closely, you can hear it. The drummers are beginning the cadence. Whistles are beginning to shrill. The sound of pads hitting pads is in the air. Yep, you guessed it; it’s football time! Tonight, the high school marching band will be tuning up the fight song as folks pile into an oversized stadium—complete with an NFL sized JumboTron screen—for the season’s first game. It doesn’t matter that the game is just a scrimmage against the high school up the street. Or, that our high school has only two victories in the past three years—we’re an SAT school, don’t you know. This is the South, baby, where Friday Night Lights is not just a TV program, but a way of life.
Let’s get something clear right up front: I LOVE football. Even before my family relocated to Georgia, I was a pigskin junkie. My husband fondly tells people he knew I was a keeper the first time I shushed him so I could hear Chris Mortensen’s Redskin report on ESPN. Seriously, he kissed me right on the spot.
Going to college at a major SEC University pretty much sealed the deal for my obsession with the game. Football Saturday is THE social event in Knoxville, Tennessee. Thousands of students march down Peyton Manning Boulevard behind the band, while thousands more fans arrive at the 107,000 seat stadium via boat as part of the Volunteer Navy. Everywhere you look there is a sea of orange. Heck, even the fire hydrants are painted orange! It’s a scene repeated in dozens of stadiums across the South—only in a different color scheme, of course.
There is nothing like SEC football. Okay, so with that statement I’ve made a few folks mad. Probably even my husband, a lowly ACC guy. But that’s what makes the fall so much fun. The rivalries, the traditions, the tailgating, the pageantry, the body painting, the true devotion to one’s team—whether they graduated from that school or not; it’s awesome. One never knows what will happen on any given Saturday in college football. It’s what keeps us coming back to the game year after year, dreams of a bowl bid in our heads.
NFL football will have a season this year, too. I heard on TV this week some frustrated housewives, probably with long ‘honey do’ lists, lamenting the fact the player’s strike was over. As you might have guessed, I’m not one of those wives. I never doubted Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ability to get things resolved and the season started. Seriously, anyone who watched him and former Secretary of State Colin Powell recite the Preamble to the Constitution before last year’s Super Bowl has to know they are the 2012 Dream Ticket. Come on, Roger, our country’s in crisis, Washington needs you!
The hero of my first fiction novel is a football player. Yeah, you’re not surprised, I know. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, several other authors—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, for example—have made the NFL character work. It was fun to write, although my character isn’t based on any one individual player; more a conglomeration of guys. Only time—and the editors—will tell if I’ve been as successful as SEP, but at least I’ve got the football fantasy out of my system. Now, I can write about…I don’t know… accountants? Seriously, has that been done yet?
For now, like the rest of the football fans out there, I’m going to enjoy the start of another fall, where we all stand on the precipice of the “perfect season” for our favorite team. Until the end of that first game, of course.