Ah, ‘tis that time of year.
A hint of cool in the air, a brilliant sun hanging a little lower in the sky, the leaves starting to nudge toward color and, most important of all, football.
Football, especially college football, becomes king of the sporting world this time of year.
Naturally the NCAA — perhaps the most incompetent, corrupt and dysfunctional organization in the history of the world — has done everything possible to destroy the game of college football.
Conferences have expanded to the point that great traditional games have been lost and it’s hard to remember who plays in which conference.
And yes, the idea of the student-athlete has long been shattered, and we know money is the king of all. But, despite these objectionable elements, the game itself still brings a level of excitement that cannot be equaled. They play football up north, allegedly, but it is not the same as what we see south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Every game is important to the fans of their respective team, but college football allows you to watch a game between two teams you care nothing about and be entertained while hoping they both lose.
You have battles with names like the Iron Bowl, The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, The 12th Man, the Egg Bowl and countless others.
This is the time of year you see the toothless guy with his head painted orange and wearing a Tennessee sweatshirt rooting his team on even though he has never set foot on the campus and doesn’t know where Knoxville is. His allegiance reaches a peek when he can say, “I got a hound jus’ like ol’ Smokey. ”You have parents who would never let their toddler near an animal but will cuddle up with UGA for a photograph and not be bothered when the critter slobbers all over their child. Shoot, they may even save the slobber as a souvenir like women who saved Elvis’ sweat.
Then you see the child dressed up like a gator and wonder why there are no laws against brainwashing. At least they don’t let the kid cuddle up with the gator. Maybe.
You have games played in antiseptic comfort and others, like in Baton Rouge, where the grounds are clearly haunted. You see students, future leaders of the country, stumbling about in poor condition while others may be reading a book before kickoff. The latter phenomenon will most likely be seen at Vanderbilt.
And no one thinks of South Carolina as “whine country” until you see Steve Spurrier walking the sidelines.
College football offers wonderful incongruities. You have the Alabama Crimson Tide represented by a red elephant while the Auburn Tigers battle cry is War Eagle and the mascot is an eagle named Tiger.
You have people in Arkansas wearing hats shaped like pigs, in Starkville cow bells are more common than cell phones and in Tuscaloosa a hound’s-tooth hat is held in higher regard than the crown of Charlemagne. So go ahead and rag the enemy, but don’t be mean-spirited about it and never forget it is still a game played by young men.
Put a new battery in the remote and enjoy.
Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.