Ode to the Most Splendid of Seasons
Story originally published nearly a year ago to the day. As history would have it, what was penned a year ago coincidentally applies today as the Arizona Wildcats embark on the 2012 football season.
The return to campus each fall brings with it a glimmering nostalgia, as the rays of afternoon sunlight permeate through the landscape as a beacon of what lies ahead.
Even those of us in Southern Arizona, still sporting shorts and sandals, can appreciate the coming of the new season. Our mornings and evenings, turning cool and fresh, signify the excitement of the next three months, when on six or seven Saturdays, we’ll gather and rejoice as if nothing else in the world matters.
The fall and college football seasons coincide in their infusion of the soul, creating an omnipresent optimism, no matter how good or bad the outlook is for any school’s team. This carefree autumn attitude is unrivaled, as it dances across the air in declaring a new time has arrived, a time when we are recreated, when we gather at grand old places in celebrating starting anew. As we head back to campus, we step into another place and time, into the glow of happiness and hope.
Daydreams flutter aplenty as the shimmering sun shines new shades through the seemingly endless summer sky. The blessed seasonal rains exit the stage, raising the curtain on a new, crystal-clear window into the greatest reality one can experience. Daylong parties begin. Old friends are reunited. New ones are made. Generations of alumni come together as a crowd, drawing on the youthful exuberance of the students, full of determined sanguinity, creating a sea of support as all in attendance bask in the spirit of the day.
Simply put, this is the greatest time of year. Even if your team’s prospective success is as uncertain as this year’s Arizona Wildcats.
But that’s the beauty of college football – it’s the magic eraser of all doubt. No matter how high, no matter how low the expectations of the analysts and experts and general populace, none of it matters when that first Saturday arrives, because the game itself is just a fraction of the experience.
Sure, the four quarters on the gridiron are the main event, but in the end, it’s the festivities of the day as a whole which make the memories, ones which last a lifetime, ones that keep us coming back time and again, year after year, to step into that dream world we wish we could live in forever.
Indeed, it’s not the game that makes this the greatest season. It’s Bear Down Fridays and the Pride of Arizona delivering the delicious din of Fight, Wildcats Fight! It’s waking up early to watch College Gameday, and then rooting for all the underdogs in the games that follow. It’s the tailgate with enough food to put Thanksgiving to shame. It’s the Wildcat Walk down Cherry Ave. It’s the years of afternoons standing in the sun-scorched Zona Zoo, shielded only by rally towels the size of bar napkins. It’s high-fiving those strangers-suddenly-turned-family following a long touchdown pass. It’s hanging one’s head during a slow shuffle out of the stadium following a heartbreaking loss, or the hugging of random red-clad fans exiting the stands after an unexpected win. It’s having a beer while listening to the post-game radio show, reliving every big play or every ‘what-if’ moment. It’s the bittersweet emotions at the end of each Saturday, knowing another perfect day has come and gone; that the precious handful of such sacred days has been reduced by one.
It’s these and similar traditions at every school that make these few glorious afternoons so beloved, by so many.
Expectations in Tucson this year are nearly nonexistent. The Wildcats are beginning a new chapter under a new coaching regime, and the general consensus is that while the offense is likely to dazzle, there is too little experience and too shallow a depth chart for the defense to realize any consistent success. The Cats will unquestionably find themselves in several shootouts, but from a realistic standpoint, the UA simply won’t be able to go toe-to-toe for 60 minutes with many of its opponents, which will include some of the supreme programs in all the land.
The plain truth is that Arizona will be hard pressed to surpass its four-win record of 2011.
The beauty of it all though, is that none of it really matters in the grand scheme. Because in five, 10, 20 years, and beyond, what happens on the field each Saturday will only be a shred of a memory that is rich with the fond recounting of special times, when the hues of new beginnings shone through the atmosphere, illuminating new friendships and undying memories, for those six or seven days when no dream is mortal, when the world is perfectly surrounded by the evocative, glistening haze of radiant euphoria, when heaven descends and exists across the land in a perfect vision of divinity.
And so we embark on the Season of Seasons, undoubtedly the most splendid time of the year.