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The Feast of Fall

Summer is over. The offseason is over. Fall is finally here.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called by the Masai "Ngàje Ngài," the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude. – Ernest Hemmingway

The end of summer brings so much promise to the football fan. After sustaining one’s self on the water and saltine crackers of recruiting and summer camp, the feast of fall beckons us to gather our tailgate supplies and make our pilgrimage to Dodd’s house.

Many of us are looking to football as more time with family – maybe it’s talking trash to those cousins you haven’t talked to in a while who cheer for that "other" team.  For many of us, it’s a welcome reprieve from the workweek to channel pent up stress, frustration, and anxiety into screaming at the opposing team’s offense or telling people what exactly "the good word" is.

Most of us settle into fall looking for something.  It might be the affirming victory over a rival to ensure bragging rights for a year.  It might be memorable afternoons with your children that they will bookmark and cherish the rest of their lives.  Or it might be the sweet relief a leisurely afternoon in the Midtown sun brings while having a drink and playing lawn games.

This season offers some sort of satisfaction or distraction; which you only realize every February because all of a sudden there’s this void.  The void returns once they award the trophy and turn the lights off in the sterile, NFL stadium of the National Championship Game.  You might, like me, feel guilty when you realize the sport meant that much to you once its season ends and won’t return for 8 months.

It’s just a game.  These are just games – so trivial in the hierarchy of things in a world of way-more-important other things.  However, the feast of fall is still coming, and cheering for a colored jersey is just so satisfying.

What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.  – Jack Kerouac

It wasn’t that long ago, but summer seems firmly in the rearview now.  The hope of fall is so promising.  Beyond the games, traditions, and pageantry, something within you resonates with each tackle and touchdown.  This something says, "This is my team.  These are my colors.  This is whom I associate myself with.  This is part of my identity four months of the year, and there’s nothing I can do about it."

If you live in The South, you’ve no doubt felt this new chill in the air in the mornings.  It’s nature’s subtle goodbye to summer – a note left on a nightstand bidding a beachtown lover "until next time" as a snowbird returns home for a year.

So what is this "crazy venture" we’re getting ourselves into?  There’s no telling – it could end anywhere from Shreveport to Miami to Glendale.  The season ticket holders you’re sitting next to all season may become life-long friends of yours.  The same people could also sell their seats to an opposing fan whom Jack Daniels cordially invites you to insult the mother of and fight after the game.

If there’s one thing we know as a Georgia Tech fans, it’s that the season is never what it’s supposed to be, for better or worse.  This year, 15-0 seems just as feasible as 6-7.  Somehow cheering for an unpredictable team in the most unpredictable sport makes us love the season all the more.

Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

And here, Mr. Fitzgerald may be onto something in the college football fan.  Regardless of being ranked high, low, or not before the season kicks off, hope springs eternal.  That is unless you’re a Wake Forest, Kansas, Syracuse, or Colorado fan, in which case, we’re sorry.

Almost no matter who you cheer for, your team is undefeated and looks to really be turning a corner this year of 2015.  There’s hope you’ll beat your rival.  There’s hope your fragile quarterback will stay healthy.  There’s hope you can save enough money to attend a playoff game should your team make it. And there’s hope that this season will somehow be better than the last.  You hope for cooperative weather, kickoffs later than noon, and a little bit of turnover luck.

The people who don’t like sports, or never understood having a passion for them, are missing the bigger point.  If the average sports fan is honest with themselves, they’ll tell you the outcome of the games is only a part of it.  The things most of us love about football in the fall isn’t the winning or losing – though certainly winning is nice.  We love that watching and attending games brings back old memories and creates new ones.  It brings people together from all walks off life because they cheer for the same colored jersey.  It brings back memories of being brought to games as a child by your parents, or of that girl or guy you met in the student section senior year.  It’s an excuse to eat and drink outdoors a few Saturdays a year in beautiful fall weather, or to not leave your couch for 12 hours.

Every year as I’ve gotten older, it seems that the seasons pass by more quickly - whether it’s summer, football, or Shakespeare’s seven stages of life. Still, we always enter the fall football season with nostalgia - and don’t you dare tell me college football fans aren’t nostalgic – because this sport is as much about traditions and the past as it is the game unfolding in front of you.  Players enroll and then graduate not to be seen in the uniform again, always giving us the subtle reminder that years are passing, and in our existential moments, of mortality.

Football is here.  Summer is over.  The feast is coming.  What does this fall hold?

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. - F. Scott Fitzgerald