There’s nothing quite like the start of college football. That unique ebb and flow of hope and suffering, a chicken and egg relationship where each can only exist because of the other but nobody can work out which came first. A new college football season is a blank canvas waiting to be filled with colors and sounds and sights and styles and traditions like a Jackson Pollock painting. It’s the jingoistic nature of school pride married with the parental instinct of watching literal children with nothing but dreams and star ratings grow and develop into whole persons and elite football players before your eyes. A new season is the hope on the lips of last year’s losers who said “next year we will” and it’s the drunken boast of champions who said “next year we will...again.” Beyond all of that, it’s a time to reset. To renew. Not just for the team but for the fans too. To gather. To see friends you haven’t seen in a while. To reminisce. To become something bigger than ourselves. From all over the country, we come to McLane Stadium drawn like moths to a flame or housewives to a Magnolia Silo. And we will soon find ourselves there again.
As with any new football season, on the field nothing is certain and everything is possible. We’ve seen the lowest lows imaginable but we’ve seen incredible highs as well. This year would appear to have more of the latter than the former to offer but you can never tell, can you? I suppose that’s why they play the games. This could be a season of crashing back to earth after an amazing rebound last season. Maybe our offense won’t be able to save us from our defense like it did so many times last season. Maybe Charlie Brewer isn’t Chuck Norris the football player. Maybe we fall backwards back into the depths of despair. But it could also be a season of new highs, of wins. A season of touchdowns and deceptive speed and sacks and celebrations and revenge on rivals and “HOLY S*!%! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” game winning moments. This could be a season of silencing haters and converting skeptics. Like a kid on Christmas, anything could be in this beautifully wrapped box. Maybe it’s something we cherish forever or maybe we put it in a dark, unloved corner of the garage never again to be thought about. Either way, I can’t wait to open it.
In direct contrast, off the field there are some things you can guarantee about any new season. Ironically, it’s these things - these sure as the sunrise, so predictable you don’t even comment on them things - that add the most to the excitement of a new college football season for me. The things I miss most. Fellowship, the smell of BBQ and beer and hot dogs and all the best things in life. Stepping off the bus to be washed over by a sea of green and gold. The children running and playing with reckless abandon not yet tamed by old age or heat. The men in their dri-fit Baylor polos and matching golf hats. The women in their Gameday Dresses and statement necklaces. Seeing visiting fans reactions as they walk across the bridge for the first time and see the glorious chaos of Baylor on gameday. Cornhole sets that have seen many a hot September afternoon and cool October night. The pleasant surprise of free products you don’t need but now want more than anything else. Reuniting with family and friends. Making new ones. Meeting people you’ve only known through message boards and Twitter threads. The triumphant roar of the opening to the Baylor Fight Song. “Bear down, you Bears of Old Baylor U! We’re all for You! Go Bears!” The combination of hype, awe, and comedy seeing what you’re certain is the largest Baylor Line ever as they stumble and take the field before the home opener. The inexplicable but universally understood coolness of pregame flyovers. The silliness of an entire student section pelvic thrusting to the band’s rendition of a hit song from 1986 for reasons no one is quite sure of. The energizing rush of “IT’S THIIIIIIIIIIIIRD DOOOOOOOOWN!” and the big d*^# energy exuded by a stadium-wide, triumphant “and that’s ANOTHER BAYLOR...FIRST DOOOOOOOOOOWN!”
The pressures of the real world - the papers and exams, the deadlines at work, the bills, the PTA drama, the dread of our own impending doom - all fade away for a precious few hours. Swept aside and replaced by all of the things mentioned above, but by other things too. By community, by belonging, by the shared experience of all having called this place home no matter how different it may have looked at the time. 9 days from today, we’ll have it all back for another few months. Regardless of what happens on the field, cherish those things, never forget how special they are.
That’s my hope for the new season.