I never appreciate summer as much as I should. I’ve enjoyed some good fun on the ski slopes and in snow shoes the last couple of months, and I have plans to partake in more winter sports over the next few weeks. However, a recent stretch of mornings in the single digits has had me thinking about the months ahead when I won’t require long underwear and an ice scraper. I was shoveling snow a couple of mornings ago when I remembered that I was the idiot who begged for this.
There’s always a moment somewhere shortly after the 4th of July where a newspaper or Twitter or a radio host informs me that media days are ahead. I do a double take and my pulse quickens a little bit. This means football is on its way.
Soon the preview magazines will show up on shelves. I’ll glance over the preseason rankings on the cover of each and discern what publications are haters and which ones are smart. The smart ones will have Georgia highly ranked, and I will show support for their wise writers with my wallet.
Coaches and a few of their star players will gather in a city and give mostly boring quotes about the season ahead. I’ll start looking at next year’s schedules and thinking of the possibilities. I tell myself things that might not be true. “If we can get through that early season test on the road with a win this team is really going to gel,” I say in my head as I nod confidently. “Florida could end up 5-7 if a few bounces don’t go their way,” I think as I smile as the thought. “Georgia Tech might not win a game.” Actually that last one is totally true.
Lots of people on Twitter will share similar predictions about their own teams and I’ll stare incredulously and wonder how someone could be that delusional.
Practices will start, and I’ll hear from a friend who knows a guy who ran into coach and heard that our defensive-end is unblockable after an off-season in the weight room. The College Football circus will start organizing itself for its annual four-month show.
All the while, I’ll be looking at the days left until the first game kicks off and wishing I could wake up in September.
I wish those days away because I love the way my family gathers around the sport. I love the strangers that become friends because of it. I love instinctively hugging them after big touchdowns.
I love the fact that 100,000 strangers can get together and agree on something for four hours in a day and age when that seems impossible.
With all that good, I suppose it’s understandable why I wish away the end of the summer.
The best thing about College Football is the possibilities. We never really know what the next season will hold.
We live in the most predictable age the sport has ever seen. Websites and analysts start evaluating the sport’s future players before they can drive. We know that there’s a base line level of talent that must be recruited for a team to win a national championship. That narrows the field of 130 teams to around 15. That sounds boring on the surface.
Then you remember that the guy who finished 12th in the SEC in passing efficiency in 2018 laid down the best season we’ve ever seen from a quarterback in 2019. He did this at LSU. This is the same LSU who insisted on putting elite athletes in as little space as possible for the decade prior. Your fate can change that quickly here. If a year feels too long for your tastes then talk to Nick Saban. He’ll tell you how quickly things can change in a second.
We get different things every night.
A receiver in Mississippi fake dog peed on Thanksgiving night and changed the futures of no less than a dozen programs.
A Tennessee team that opened the year by getting blown out at home to a Georgia State program that had existed for less than a decade then lost a game to BYU when they had a 99.9% win probability. They ended the season by becoming the first team all year to win a game when trailing by 13 or more points in the final five minutes of the game. Teams in such situations had been 0-471 to that point. The realization of a statistical improbability, a folding chair and a pinkie were enough to convince Cade Mays that he loves Tennessee again.
The Georgia Bulldogs finished at #4 in the AP Poll this season and nobody was happy about it. If you had told 10 year-old me that when I was flipping through my preseason magazines in 1999 I would have been utterly shocked. If you had told 28 year-old me that when I was flipping through my preseason magazines in July of 2017 I would have been utterly shocked. Georgia’s program has risen to the top tier of the sport while assembling arguably the best collection of talent in the game. For many years I wondered if that was possible.
The impossible is always possible here. Every college football season brings something unexpected.
I think all of the Bulldogs that I have watched don the Silver Britches over the last few years are great. They’re DGD’s in my book, and I hope they make boatloads of money in the NFL or whatever other field they choose to pursue. I hope they find themselves happy in life.
However, Georgia’s 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor was the most I have enjoyed watching the team play in quite a while.
Guys took the field with last names and jersey numbers that I’d only seen in garbage time. They played fast, physical and aggressive. They were hungry. A talented true-freshman named George Pickens looked unstoppable. He made the friend who told me back in August that George was the next AJ Green look smart. I watched new running backs move and cut with styles I hadn’t seen before. The defense rotated guys in waves. They all flew to the ball. New leaders took the place of departed ones.
These players, and all the new ones that will show up in July, hold a world of possibilities. Amongst them could be a Heisman winner. One of them could run for 1,500 yards while another breaks the school sack record. They might change the fate of our offense in an off-season. They could deliver us a national championship.
I enjoy watching players come in and play their careers. I also enjoy watching them go. The sport is always new, and change lends itself to possibilities.
My best friend’s Grandma was like a second one to me, and she loved the Bulldogs as much as anyone I’ve ever known. She stated having heart problems later in life and had to be admitted to the hospital. The doctor came in to check on her one day and said he needed to test her heart.
The kind young doctor asked her to take a moment, think of the most exciting thing she could and then tell him when she had it in mind. After a few moments, she told the doctor she was ready. He asked her to close her eyes and think about this exciting thing she had come up with.
After a few seconds, the instruments in the hospital room began to beep quickly and sound their alarms... “Okay, okay! Stop!” She opened her eyes and looked up at the doctor as the beeps began to slow with her heart rate.
The doctor stared at her somewhat stunned. “What in the World did you think about?!”
“Well, I thought about the Georgia Bulldogs playing in the national championship and returning the kickoff all the way back for a touchdown on the very first play of the game.”
The 2019 season is over. Maybe this is the year it happens.