Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is it nearly time for football? Already?

     I read somewhere that the college football season kicks off in two weeks. Really?
     Unlike most fans of the sport, I'm not ready. I'd rather wait until mid-September (read on for the reason). I know that sounds strange to those who know me, but I've enjoyed the off-season. Lot less stress.
     I promise I will be ready by 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, when Louisiana Tech starts the upset of the college season at Oklahoma. And the game I'll be most interested in kicks off two hours later in Houston.
      I'm kidding about not being ready, of course -- I've had it on the mental calendar for a few days/weeks. OK, for a few months ... like since last New Year's Day.
     Actually, there are Division II -- or whatever it's called these days -- games on Saturday, Aug. 23, and the following Wednesday. But you won't find the TV in this apartment tuned in to football until Texas A&M at South Carolina at 5 p.m. the next day.
     Yeah, that's right -- no NFL preseason here. No NFL anything, perhaps, all season ... unless the Cowboys go on a 16-game winning streak in the regular season. Somehow I don't see that happening.
     Point of all this is, football is starting earlier and earlier every year. At least that's the way it seems to these older eyes.
     Hey, I saw where the high school volleyball season began Monday in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. It's Aug. 11. It just doesn't seem right. Summer ends far too soon.
     The high school football season here begins the same weekend as the college football season. What fascinates me about Texas high school football is that teams that make it to the state championship games, in most classes, will play 16 games ... that's as many as most NFL teams play.  
     It's too much, in my opinion. Too much, too soon these days in the world of sports. Maybe in the world, period.
     Television and money rule big-time sports. That's why college football begins the last weekend of August and runs through the second week of January. Why the NFL starts playing preseason games the first week of August and the Super Bowl is on Feb. 1. Why there's a football game on almost every night.
      College basketball pushes up into early November and March Madness winds up as Championship April. The NBA season goes from mid-October (preseason games) until the end of June ... and my wife is ready for the Dallas Mavericks to start playing..
     Baseball goes from mid-February (spring training) to the end of October, at least for the World Series teams. For some teams' fans, the season might as well have ended at the end of July.
     Golf and tennis seasons are almost never ending; after the official events, there are unofficial, high-money-for-appearances events. Soccer season is almost year-round; the regular season has started in some European countries ... and didn't the World Cup just get finished?
     I know this won't change, and I must accept it. But this thought is straight from geezer-dom, I can remember the days when it was all so much simpler and, better yet, so much shorter.
     This hit me the other day when I was on my walk and it was 95 degrees in mid-morning and the high school football team in my area was on the practice field. It's too hot for those kids, I thought.
     Then I thought about August 15 because that was a big day for Louisiana high school football players back in the day. Yes, that was the day official practice began -- the two-a-day practices. There were no "conditioning" days then; it was full pads-for-practice from the start.
     And it was hot then, too. But perhaps kids of those days were more accustomed to it because we spent a lot of summer days outside, and we didn't have air conditioning in our homes -- oh, maybe a window unit or two, but not central air -- or our schools.
     Here's the other thought I had. Our teams didn't start practice until Aug. 15 -- and the college teams didn't start until a week or so after that -- because no games were played until the third week of September.
     And yet, even with an 11-game regular season (but no open dates), the state championship games were settled by the first or second week of December.
     College football, too, did not begin until well into September. I thought that was the case, but just to be sure, I did my 10 minutes of research for this blog. Until 1980, LSU never played a season opener before Sept. 11. Until 1979, Louisiana Tech never opened before Sept. 7. But starting in the mid-1980s -- with a few exceptions -- season openers were in the first week of September and they've remained there, now pushing into late August.
Heat or not, it will be full soon: LSU's Tiger Stadium, with the
 south end-zone expansion (top), has a new capacity: 102,321
(photo from LSU Football on Facebook)
     The Cowboys, and  the NFL, played no games before Sept. 12 until the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978. Since then, the season openers have all been played before Sept. 14.
     And we all survived just fine. The New Year's Day college football bowls marked the end of the season. The Super Bowl was played in mid-January. No problem.
     Maybe it's because I'm older and can't take the heat, but it seems to me, it gets hotter and hotter every year -- at least here in the Deep South. So why in the heck are we playing football earlier and earlier?                               
     Sure, playing in air-conditioned, domed stadiums makes some games pleasurable. Night games outdoors are (barely) tolerable in late August/early September. Day games? If the fans are willing, more power to them. I'm not going there.
     It's all tough on the players. One reason schedules are expanded these days is because the size and speed of the athletes makes it -- it seems to me -- a more brutal, taxing game. So one or two built-in open dates in the schedules are probably necessary.
     Also, college football and the NFL are more popular than ever. They're still expanding college stadiums (hello, 100,000 seats at LSU's Tiger Stadium) and NFL stadiums are full, and while the ticket prices just keep rising (again, too much for me), there's no backlash ... yet. (Not even for the 8-8-every-year Cowboys.)
     So I can sit here and type that it's too much and I can long for the days of third-week-of-September opening weeks. But because I'm not a turn-back-the-clock guy -- the world today is what it is, and that's OK -- I better get ready to watch some football in a couple of weeks.


  1. From Karen Ann Bryant Dye: The boys of fall at Georgetown (Texas) High School have sure been practicing. The band is out there for hours every day, too. Maybe it's my age or my wimpiness, but I don't know how they stand it when it starts getting hot.

  2. From Jim Robinson: If I remember the '60s and '70s in Shreveport, the football jamboree was always played at State Fair Stadium on a Friday night and it was usually the first Friday after Labor Day. The first regular-season game was not until the following week, and some teams had two weeks until their first game. They waited until then because of the heat and humidity.

  3. From John Morris: Enjoyed your latest blog about football. With the earlier start now and later warm weather, it seems you can go half a season without wearing a sweater or jacket. Instead, you wear sunscreen.

  4. From Chuck Baker: In 25 seasons, I've missed one Razorbacks home game (for my niece's wedding) and I can tell you Saturday afternoon home games in August or early September are BRUTAL. I can't imagine how they must be farther south.