It’ll likely be weeks before it feels like fall — even though it’s a glorious 60 degrees outside at the moment — but my favorite season begins this week. That fact has little to do with what the calendar says, and everything to do with the fact that at 8 o’clock Saturday morning, we’ll be hauling tables and chairs and coolers out of the back of my parents’ truck in a small parking lot in Columbus.
We’ll be setting up a grill, mixing our first Bloody Marys, turning off the radio when the marching band starts warming up on the intramural field between our parking space and the beautiful gray concrete hulk to our north.
The Wife and I will fill out our sheets for the first football picks of the season. Juan will amaze everyone when he arrives early — for him, anyway. Fred and Ethel will have growlers, and they’ll toss a football with The Wife and me in the parking lot. Matlock and the Coochie Doctor will arrive late; we’ll forgive them because they brought something yummy to go with whatever it is we’re eating this week.
We pack up an hour before kickoff and, after a sip of whiskey, jump into the streams of people pulsing towards Ohio Stadium. In my excitement, I will walk too fast; the Wife will remind me to slow down while the rest of the group catches up. We split up at the southwest corner of the stadium and head to our respective seats. I always feel as though we are late; The Wife will always grumble that we have plenty of time … and she’s always right.
The team takes the field.
Kickoff, long touchdown, interception, sack, halftime … yeah, a bratwurst sounds good … more plays, more scores, more noise, more elation.
The walk back to the truck is more leisurely. Get some water. Dig out the chips and cookies. Listen to the well-trained players talk without saying anything — just like their head coach — on the radio. Make some plans for later … or, happy and exhausted, maybe just call it a day.
It would be foolish for me to suggest that the game is secondary; we are not casual fans, and nearly our entire day is dictated by the three hours we spend inside that building.
But it’s more. It’s everyone we see and everything we do. It’s traditions and music and food and drink. It’s hard work and great fun. It’s seven Saturdays, between now and the end of November.
When everyone starts arriving in the Parks Hall parking lot Saturday morning, we’ll welcome each other back.