Where I come from, the air sweats this time of year. Sweats hard. The soft whisper that was the spring air has been hitting the weights all summer long. By late August, it’s just learned to lug its new bulk through a series of wind sprints, and it’s hurtin’ from the exertion. The result is heavy and thick. It slows the mosquitoes down, making them easily swattable out of mid-air.
That gummy, summer air is the bane of every football player who pulls on full pads and helmet for late-summer dailies or two-a-days. They stand under the sticky canopy, in line for drills, flicking mosquitoes away by the dozen, hoping the air doesn’t gum them up enough to make them similar targets for linebackers.
They ponder that thought lazily, wiping sweaty hands on slick pants until a whistle blows, and they explode off the line, grab the ball, find the hole, and beat back the air and the O-men on the strength of a summer spent on the leg press.
It’s football season, and football season requires a column on the simple greatness of football. So, without further dallying, my top football memories.
I don’t know how old I was when I learned the rules of football—my guess is just old enough to count to four downs and 10 yards. But I remember where I was. I was on the front row in the end zone of a college stadium, in the direct sun of a Georgia summer. I sat between my brothers, and all three of us sat between both of our parents, who taught us about “moving the chains,” fourth downs, and fumbles. When I sat among the sea of college students, primped and proper as Sunday morning, in strapless dresses and shirts and ties—all in school colors—I realized there was something very important about this football thing.
I remembered that stadium when I was picking colleges, and I went back to the University of Georgia because I thought four more years of SEC football would be a nice complement to my degree. One season, a lovely fall night became a whole lot lovelier when Georgia beat rival Tennessee, 21-10. It became downright legendary when half the stadium dove onto the field to celebrate the victory.
The girls hiked up skirts and dresses, leaving high-heels behind. The guys ripped slacks on the storied hedges that line the field. Only problem was, there was still 1:13 left on the clock. All right, all right, so we hadn’t beaten Tennessee in a while. Or, maybe we just wanted to rush the field twice in one game.
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