Friday, July 30, 2010

SPORTS>>Summertime and the livin’ is pigskin-free

Leader sports editor

What’s all this rush to start football season?

A friend of mine in the media added a link to his publication’s football preview issue on his Facebook page the other day.

Being a good employee, my friend was of course promoting his magazine to drum up business, but when he asked the time-honored question, “Are you ready for some football?” I knew immediately what my answer was.


Football season, the one in which they actually play games, begins for us around here on Aug. 31, when Cabot and Jacksonville square off at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Just over five months later, on Feb. 6, 2011, it will come to a halt with Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.

But does football ever really end?

In March, less then a month after the Super Bowl, colleges and high schools begin spring practice. In April comes the NFL draft, and I know I can’t get enough of athletes in street clothes getting cheered on by out-of-shape guys in jerseys — sort of the reverse of how it is on game days.

The draft is followed immediately by NFL rookie mini-camps, followed by a series of team mini-camps. By then Arena Football is under way, and soon come the high school 7-on-7 leagues, then the start of NFL training camps, followed by high school and college two-a-days.

And all across the country the fantasy leaguers are preparing for their drafts.

I’ve never played fantasy football, but I know whom I would want in my draft. My fantasy team starts with Scarlett Johansson at quarterback and we proceed from there.

Now the NFL is making noise about an 18-game season when it already can’t get a 16-game season and playoffs done by the end of January. The best parties always seem to end too soon and football is acting like the rude guest who won’t leave.

“Ready for some football?”

Are you kidding?

It’s hot enough to melt Dick Cheney’s heart out there.

It won’t be football weather until mid to late October, if then. But not to worry, there will still be 3 ½ months of the NFL season left to go, plus bowl games and high school playoffs.

That’s plenty of time to break in that stadium blanket.

“Ready for some football?”


Most kids are still on summer break and the pools are all open. The Chicago Cubs aren’t even mathematically eliminated yet.

Look, I love football. It’s the only sport I played with any real success in high school and I think it had a lot to do with bringing me out of my shell and teaching me something about accountability, goal setting, physical fitness and personal health.

But, not to get too biblical, there’s a reason why things have a season. It’s not football I object to but the rush to get it here before its time, and what it means when it finally arrives.

It means buying school supplies and breaking out clothes with sleeves and long legs you actually have to iron. It means keeping track of a jacket.

It means Halloween decorations in August, Thanksgiving decorations in September and Christmas decorations in October.

It means cold, wet weather, like the kind that nearly drowned us and got deep into our bones last year. It means setting the clocks back and the dying of the light.

Soon enough we will tailgate and warm our hands over the grill and call the Hogs. Soon enough we will gather in someone’s living room or the local sports bar for chips, salsa and to root against the Cowboys and Packers.

“Ready for some football?”

First give me another month of high skies and lingering sunsets the color of those pushup pops you get from the ice cream truck.

Give me extra innings at Dickey-Stephens Park on a night when the beer garden is humming along at its strapless best and I have absolutely nothing better to do.

Give me the smell of chlorine and sunscreen, the sound of cicadas and gently lapping water, the clink of ice in a cold, fizzy beverage.

It’s summer. Relax. There’s no rush.

Football isn’t going anywhere.