In my experience, a person’s reaction to the arrival of football season can be predicted by assessing their spouse’s reaction to the arrival of football season. And then inverting it. In other words, if your spouse is incredibly excited that football season is here, chances are you are incredibly depressed that football season is here, and vice versa. My wife actually likes football, but I consider myself a rare and happy exception to the above rule.
If you think about it, you’ll realize that football season elicits a much more powerful and charged emotional response than basketball and baseball seasons do. Unless you’re talking about the 12 or 13 die-hard baseball fans left in this country, you won’t find large groups of men salivating over the fact that OPENING DAY IS FINALLY HERE. Let’s face it: baseball is a national tradition shrouded in history and meaning and sentimentality that nobody happens to actually like watching. It makes for a lovely setting for a pleasant conversation with friends. I like nothing more than to go the ball park with friends or family, order a hot dog, soak in the surroundings, hang out, admire the beauty of the field, and chit chat the day away. I even like the sound of the bat hitting the ball. But the sport itself? Kind of terrible.
Although there are more everyday college hoops and NBA fans than there are MLB fans, you won’t find the basketball guys sending one another emails that say, “HANG ON, OPENING TIP-OFF IS IN ONLY 37 DAYS.” That is largely because the NBA isn’t fun until the play-offs. Indeed, I advocate scrapping the regular season in favor of a two-month tournament. Based on how regular season games are played, I’m guessing most NBA players feel the same way. And as far as college basketball is concerned, I consider anything before March to be “pre-season.”
But football, that’s an entirely different ballgame. (Nailed it.) And to be honest with you, I’m not entirely sure why. The anticipation surrounding the arrival of football season can’t be entirely – or even mostly – explained by a simple preference for football over other sports. It isn’t a simple matter of saying, “I like football more than basketball, so I’m more excited for football season.” No, football season is evocative of something that goes well beyond the idea of watching 12 – 15 games over a 4-month period.
As I try to explain this, the first idea that comes to mind is that for whatever reason, football season feels much more like a season. It feels like an event that occurs during a well-defined period of time marked by certain emotional cues. Basketball is winter and spring. But you don’t think of winter or spring and have those thoughts immediately followed by thoughts of “Basketball!” Winter and spring aren’t defined by basketball. The relationship between summer and baseball is a little closer, but it’s nothing compared to the relationship between fall and football. Fall means football, and football means fall. Which makes football season much more of a season that defines a quarter or so of the year. You say “football season” and I think of leaves turning and temperatures cooling. I think of pulling sweaters and blazers out of storage. I remember going school shopping at Mervyn’s and VF Factory outlet and considering my options for getting placed in a foster home where the parents allowed the kids to buy school clothes that weren’t going to socially ruin them.
I think another reason football seasons carries such meaning is the fact that it’s tied to two specific days – days that have very positive associations. Basketball season? Makes me think of a freezing cold Tuesday night. Doesn’t exactly warm the cockles of my heart. Baseball season? Thursday game at 1 PM. When I’m working. Football season? Saturday! Sunday!
Finally, football season feels . . .meaningful. There aren’t very many games, so each one counts and players play hard. You have 50,000 – 100,000 screaming fans. Marching bands. I don’t want to overanalyze this, but the pageantry and the hoopla lend a certain gravity to it all. Add to that the suspense of the high physical stakes involved, and its hard not to get invested even in a game where you have no direct rooting interest.
Oh, and I won’t get into fantasy football, because I don’t want to responsible for any divorces. But that really helps, too.
So, that’s why football season is the best. And it’s here. Thank heavens.