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Football hit me Saturday

Football hit me like Tom Novak Saturday morning.

I woke up to open windows and cool air; an overcast sky. 68 degree weather. I was instantly thrusted back to the late 90s when I’d wake up late on Saturdays with the windows open and the leaves on our front yard maple becoming a telling hue of amber. I could almost hear snare drums snapping from the living room TV where my dad would be watching the early Big Ten games.

Football hit me like the season’s first tunnel walk Saturday afternoon.

I drove west on I-80 with the windows down from Omaha to Lincoln, listening Gary Clarke Jr. as high as my car stereo allowed. The number of times I’ve made this drive is comparable to the number of consecutive sellouts Nebraska owns, but this drive was special. I never thought the sight of dried brittle cornstalks along the interstate could invoke so much anticipation and excitement. I’m not old enough to feel fall in my bones, but I could feel it in my mind.

Football hit me like a wild pitch Saturday afternoon as I traveled to Haymarket Park to cover my final baseball game of the season.

I’ve developed a love for baseball I never thought I’d have over the past three months, but I knew it was time for football when I found myself wondering what the strong safety was doing batting seventh for the Saltdogs. I had to pause for a moment before I remembered that SS still means shortstop for 10 more days. The designated hitter I interviewed after the game (a Missouri native) told me he could feel the fans counting down the days to the Huskers’ first kickoff.

Football hit me like a 4-year NCAA bowl ban Saturday night.

It was a bittersweet realization that this might be my last season of traditional fandom of college football. By season’s end, I may even be working as a reporter covering football in some aspect. It’s likely going to be my last round of Saturdays for a long time that I get to sit in one spot for 11 hours and cycle anxiously between CBS, FOX and ESPN. While I’m ready to begin a career covering the thing that I love most, I’ll miss the sensation on the of plopping down on the couch with a cold red cup and watching the scores roll across the bottom of the screen after walking back from Memorial Stadium; voice hoarse and adrenaline still pumping.

Football hit me like a four-team playoff Sunday morning when I woke up and really thought about the next chapter of football in my life.

As I sit here typing I dream, no, expect to be doing it for a living one day. Since pursuing a journalistic career, I’ve come to the conclusion on my own that if you’re paid to do what you used to do in your free time, there’s no such thing as work. Like the playoff, it will be different, but I think it’s for the best.

Autumn is when I’m at my finest and when I think life is at its finest. The air is cool and dry and the sun is gentle and warm. Nebraska is tenfold more beautiful and vibrant in the fall, and UNL campus is an even more concentrated sample. Tradition and camaraderie are palpable, like simpler times.

I only know two words that do justice the ecstasy of fall.

Football season.

 

***

Quick hits:

-I’m glad to see Augusta National finally allowed two women to become members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, a South Carolina businesswoman. Even though this had become somewhat of a nonissue after the Masters thanks to some brilliant PR work by the Augusta board, they still overturned an archaic and flawed tradition. My thoughts were that once it got to the point when Augusta’s only argument for disallowing women was the strength and duration of the traditional, the argument is no longer valid. Slavery was once a strong tradition too.

-I’m excited that the role of ESPN broadcaster Joe Tessitore is expanding this fall. He’s always had a great voice and has done a good job of transcending boxing in my mind – something his voice was always synonymous with me for. Brad Nessler is still my favorite (not because of NCAA football, I don’t even play video games) but I’m glad Tessitore will be heard more.

-I can’t remember entering a football season in Nebraska that felt quite this way in a long time. I’m not sure if the fan base is becoming more polarized with expectations and opinions of Bo Pelini or if standards are genuinely low this year. There are a lot of people I’ve spoken too that wouldn’t be shocked with a .500 record for Nebraska.

-I’ve always liked Lane Kiffin in some strange sense, but I like him a lot more now. You have to respect a coach who can build a title contender with what he’s working with, even if it is in Southern California. This Gregg Doyel column didn’t hurt his cause either. Finally, I love and admire his stance on the coach’s poll. Having coaches rank teams is ridiculous. How many times has Bo Pelini said on record that he doesn’t even watch football? “I’m a baseball guy” is his usually response to questions about watching sports.

-Sam McKewon of the Omaha World Herald had a fantastic passage in his Monday football report about Nick Saban’s method with some really simple but telling numbers. Definitely worth the quick read.

-I’m as excited as I’ve ever been for the NFL this year. My AFC might look like a real division this year, and the NFC North is going to be a blast to watch. I can’t wait to see if it’s the Giants again or some other team that upsets the Patriots in the Super Bowl after they rip through the moist towelette known as the AFC East. Give me Justin Blackmon for Offensive Rookie of the Year and Melvin Ingram on defense.

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