Oh, it's that time of year. I have an itch, not the kind you get from vines in the woods. It's not an allergy. No cortisone cream will be needed. It's not the kind you scratch. No, this one is an annual rite of passage. It took the smiling blue eyes of my little girl to reignite it. Tradition is being passed on. She already knows it, but doesn't understand why just yet. The camps have opened. In most every town in America there are young testosterone laden young lads puking their guts out from the two-a-days. Yes my friends, football season is almost here. Hallelujah!!!
This past Saturday, I decided to take my three year old daughter, Grace, to run my usual weekend errands. Per her usual act of three year old rebellion, picking out the clothes for a day is very much, a laborious chore. She has to pick out what she wants to wear. She has an unbelievable independent streak that in no way shape or form is like her own father's streak of stubbornness...well, maybe a little similar. That is all I will admit to. Mother nature, I have come to realize, has a sense of humor.
There is a whole routine that you must go through. We open the shirt drawer. We open the pants drawer. I pick out some clothes and Grace will respond in kind, "No, not dis one! No, not dis one!" She has to repeat it for emphasis as if I didn't hear it, the first ten times she said it. This goes on and on and on and on. Oh yes, they say that these are the best years. Whoever they are, they need to be shot.
We could not find what she wanted. Usually, she wants one of her sun dresses. Thank God we have a closet full of them. This day though, something different caught her eye. Something gold with something blue jumped out at her. For reasons unknown, she picked out her West Virginia cheerleading outfit. "I want dis one!" she exclaimed. Eureka! We had found the dress for the day.
At that moment the feeling had come over me. It's like the people back home in my beloved West Virginia, the weeks leading up to buck season. You can smell it in the air. Football season is almost here. We quickly got her dressed and of course she had to have her matching blue and gold bow. My daughter was experiencing it too, but she does not understand it yet. OK, maybe I sang the WVU Alma mater to her at night when she was an infant. I might have her sing 'Country Roads' each time we get in the car and she may already know the lyrics by heart. She may have had the mobile with bears in the flying WV sweaters hanging over her crib, but that's all normal, right? Maybe there is something to this nature versus nurture thing after all.
This happens every year like clockwork. The anxiousness begins to build. We'll travel in droves just to watch our favorite teams practice. No other sport has this sort of following. No other sport has this sort of passion. You never see guys lining up to go watch an NBA preseason camp. You never get daily and sometimes hourly reports on drills from other sports. I never knew a passing tree could be that interesting, but I find it to be. Only in football, is it this way.
Now another generation is being passed down a love for the game. It is the same way my Dad and even more so, my Mother, did with me. I remember Saturdays in the fall, listening to Jack Fleming and Woody O'hara calling Mountaineer games. I remember watching Elway lead numerous two minute comebacks. I rememder watching Louis Lipps and yes, even Bubby Brister play for my beloved Steelers. I remember going to Beaver Stadium with my Dad to see Joe Paterno lead his beloved Nittany Lions on the field. I remember St. Mary's High School's homecoming. I remember my sister being named the Bell or homecoming queen in another vernacular. In the end, no matter how the season goes, we come back, because it's the only thing we know...