CCB, Lombardi and me (in my Steve Young jersey).

Still awaiting the subtle climate salve that is autumn in Sarasota, other things, I find, offer similar mental relief—none quite so much as football season.


In the process of organizing my thoughts for this blog, I realize I keep stumbling over things about fall that have the same sort of soothing/exciting effect on me—football Sundays, Halloween and all its thematic preparations, even the start of the school year. Why? My seat-of-the-pants theory has something to do with…well, let’s call it “regimented exhilaration.” Things like Christmas, say, or summer vacation—they’re so over-the-top exciting, so much expectation for being the best times of the year. In other words, manic preparation + limitless anticipation. No pressure or anything.


But those fall events, they fly under the radar a bit. They’re predictable, but fun. They’re scheduled, but exciting. You never know what’s going to happen, but you know it’s going to happen at a set time every week (and all day on the 31st of October).


They’re holidays, but messy, quirky and casual.


With no obligation to be the very best, autumn just winds up being…very, very good.


In fact, all these things have been blended together into one idyllic childhood weekend tableau: Me walking home from the bus stop on a 70-degree Friday, seeing Dad in the front yard assembling the Halloween decorations; playing catch and dreaming of reeling in the game-winner from Joe Montana; clearing the table from Sunday brunch and hearing the TV come to life with Pat Summerall’s voice backed by a surge of crowd noise. This is my happy place.


(Yeah, I said “Joe Montana.” Yeah, I was a Tampa-area 49ers fan in the 80s. Yeah, I was an eight-year-old front-runner. Sue me.)


I love that Sundays now take me back to that place so easily. I love rooting for a win while knowing that the worst thing that can happen is a loss. I love when staying in your PJs and ordering pizza feels like tradition instead of impropriety. I love a three-hour program that captures my attention but doesn’t demand it, so I can do laundry and unload the dishwasher while my brain is occupied with pulling guards and YAC stats and screaming “KILL ‘IM!” every time the other team’s quarterback scrambles. I love when television is an event that you can shout at.


I guess I’m just surprised at what a psychological boon this is for me. The difference between waking up to Dolphins at Bills (of all things) versus waking up to Ochocinco: Ultimate Catch is, like, astronomical.


You know that little tingling you get in your stomach when you remember your parents are making you dinner or you’ve got a three-day weekend coming up? I had that feeling three times Monday just thinking about Ravens at the Jets. And I don’t even like the AFC.


And though I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Fantasy Football (season three: I’m ready for my breakout year), that’s just one more kernel of sweetness in my NFL kettlecorn. You think hating Bret Favre is as good as it gets…until he throws three picks and gives your starting defense more fantasy points than your opponent’s star running back. That right there is the cherry on my Sunday.


I suppose, in the end, it’s sort of like the fall weather: I’m not miserable during the sweltering off-season, but I always forget what it feels like to feel that cool NFL breeze again. Yes, Mr. Williams Jr., I am ready for some football.