What does football mean to you?

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So much of our entire lives have been marked in some way by the sport of football. Take away the matchups. Forget the rivalries. Even remove the cutting edge technology the game brings us. Football still makes an indelible mark in all of our lives.

Football In The Neighborhood

From the moment school would get out each summer there was “the field” where the entire neighborhood would meet to play football. The sun was so hot. Taking breaks every fifteen minutes to go suck water out of somebody’s hose nearby. The real treat was if a game broke out in a new location. Somebody’s house. Smaller yard. The sidelines would be defined by the street and some bush. Sneakers would serve as goal lines.

Then the treat. The players whose house it was would call a timeout. Their mom would come out with a huge pitcher of lemonade, iced tea, or just ice cold water. The players would gather around and talk a little smack. Then the game would once again begin. The friendships, the sharing of a cold drink together. This had to be what football was meant to be.

Afternoon Thunderstorm Football

Seemed like each and every day there was a big game. The summer clouds would start swelling up in the east. As the afternoon grew longer and the heat of the day would crest, those clouds would grow higher and higher. With each possession, touchdown, or kickoff, those clouds would slowly march west, and right at us. Everybody would keep an eye to the gathering storm clouds that would turn several shades of blue, each one darker than the last.

Lightning from the storm would be an immediate rain delay and everybody would scatter. No lightning around and the game would continue. The closer that storm got the hotter, and more powerful that sun seemed to get. Then, just like that, the moment that cold thrusts of air would push out from the storm and feel like the most excellent air conditioning on earth. Of course, then the wind would blow dirt in everybody’s eyes. But for that sweet couple of minutes, it felt like this is what football was meant to be

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Football by its very seasonal start is the owner of the fall. Not just because football is on television on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and just about every other day that time of year. Football would take a sabbatical each year for baseball, swimming, basketball, etc. But when the pros got back to work the neighborhood would go into full-on football mode. As the days got shorter, the temperatures got cooler, and suddenly these football games became twilight games. Like golfers attempting to finish a round as the sun sets, suddenly there were quick snaps, short routes, everybody in hurry-up mode. Racing the setting sun to get that last catch, score, tackle.

The cooler weather also meant the clothes could be layered to form some type of non-protective cotton padding. The tackles got harder. You could slide with pants and a sweatshirt on and almost be guaranteed no grass burn. If it gets too cold that tackle will sting a little more. The wind could get so cold that it stung a little when you were out of breath. But this, too, was what it meant to play football.

What Is Football Today

It is still about the days getting shorter. It is marked by the temperatures getting cooler. Here in Tampa Bay, it is the backside of a tropical storm that traveled up the eastern seaboard and has pushed drier air in for a minute or two. It feels like football weather. Or at least the start of it.

That really has Buccaneer fans feeling like its football time is a defense that is relentless, an offense that is still learning, the Giants team that is limping, and the thought of winning two games in a row.

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