College Football and the First Weekend in September
It’s not all that important. The details are often forgotten. The experience builds community which we need.
Monumental coliseums across the country that sit dormant most of the year will fill up with souls. Families will huddle around the TV with friends. Fight songs, classic rock and upbeat country will fill the air. Food will be procured, grilled, fried and enjoyed.
People will forget about their politics. Friends that don’t talk very often will fire off text messages like time has never passed. Tweets and Facebook posts will be impassioned about uniforms, painted sod and mascots.
Leading up to today, I watched college teams take to the field under the lights on Thursday night and Friday night that I would normally never watch. Thursday and Friday was prelude for today.
The week leading up to today was filled with small chat and elevator conversations around the office. The idle chatter this time of year uncovers college loyalties that will strengthen relationships. The guy that normally wears the traditional blue oxford showed up with his UCF shirt.
Saturday is upon us. Coffee was made like it was a work day. Chores must be completed before noon. Corso and Herbstreit are the familiar background noise.
The first round of games kicked off at noon. The pageantry has begun. We start to see the familiar power coaches. Except for a few games, the box scores will fill out as we expect.
Despite living in Florida for almost twenty years and this being the birthplace for three of my four kids, at 3:30 pm my Tennessee Volunteers take the field. This is bliss. My team, the team that I can claim, is on the field. I don’t personally know a single player on the field. We’ve never met. We will probably never meet, but we share a bond that wraps around a stadium called Neyland.
This Tennessee game is special. My team has never matched up against the so-called Mountaineers from West Virginia. Of most importance, we have a new general at the helm.
Our new general’s name is Jeremy. Jeremy is different from Butch. The attitude is different from Lane and without the lineage of a last name like Dooley. None of those names matter today.
Coach Pruitt was appointed by Coach Fulmer. Fulmer is more than a former coach. He was a player, national championship coach and now the athletic director. Fulmer is the uncle that we inexplicability banished. We made a mistake. Today, in the Queen City of Charlotte, we begin our apology to Fulmer and our return to tradition, roots and family.
I’m a college football fan living in Orlando. The college football cultural influence has been surpassed by soccer clubs.
Noon turns to mid-afternoon and as evening approaches we start our drive to a coliseum that was once more commonly known as the Citrus Bowl. Florida was sparsely populated. Citrus was the economic engine. College football fans would conclude their season at the Citrus Bowl to escape the cold and vacation in proximity to their college teams.
We’ve arrived at Camping World Stadium. No longer known as the Citrus Bowl. We are here for the 2018 Camping World Kickoff.
The Camping World Kickoff is a multi-year agreement between Florida Citrus Sports, an Orlando-based nonprofit events organizer, to host a major neutral-site college football game in Orlando during the opening weekend of the college football season.
We are watching Louisville go up against the Alabama powerhouse program. Our oldest daughter isn’t here with us, but we are here for her. She’s a sophomore at the University of Louisville. We want our other three kids to experience the exciting culture of college football, and we want to support our oldest daughter’s future alma mater. I hope she loves her university as much as I love mine.
Camping World Stadium, despite the name change, is located at 1 Citrus Bowl Place in Orlando. The present can’t always escape the past. The stadium has been rebuilt, but the foundation of this place goes back to federal programs initiated by FDR. The first game played here was a struggle between Catawba College and Maryville College. My wife is from the same region as Catawba College, and I’m from the same general area as Maryville College.
I’ve never mentioned a score. They are mostly forgotten. These Saturdays are special. The excitement they generate and the communities they build are woven together. Like life, we experience these events together. We look forward to the moments because the season is short and soon we find ourselves anticipating the first weekend in September again.