It’s the most wonderful time of the year

By Lori Clinch

It’s not a tangible thing, but you can feel it. It’s almost as if it rises from the east with great brilliance and beauty, bringing with it excitement, tension and a plethora of goose bumps. Birds sing, children laugh and sometimes grown men cry at the prospect.

It’s what we have been waiting for, looking forward to and long anticipating. It’s the dawning of the college football season.

At the mention of the word football, the very atmosphere in our house changes.  Fists clinch, jaws set, and deep breaths are taken, as eyes close, so folks can center themselves.

The men in the Clinch family have been following the media and listening to the scrutiny since March. They know the names of the players, which ones suffer injuries and they anticipate the outcome of each and every game.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a football fan through and through. I don’t understand the bulk of it, but I watch it, cheer as best I can and don’t ask questions unless they are imperative. Still, the game complicates my life.

Let’s just say for a minute that their favorite team doesn’t win a particular game. Don’t shoot me, just humor me for a minute. What if the passing game never develops? What if the running back pulls a hamstring? What if, heaven forbid, we can’t go for the winning touchdown?!

Worse yet, what if a game goes so badly that no one will eat my jalapeno poppers? I shudder to think.

Back in the day, their favorite team won, and often. It seemed as though winning was a given. The only question was just by how much.

When we suffered a loss, the entire household would grieve. No one would talk to anyone. Children would cry. Some would lie on their bellies, some would fall into a lamenting heap and still others would look toward the heavens in despair and scream out, “Why, why, why?” Even the dog seemed to grieve.

These days, we know that wins are tougher to come by and it magnifies the pressure. Watching the game is one thing. I can handle the roar of the crowd as it fills the abode and the pressure as it rises in the air with a fourth down and an inch to go; even the ever-present “Dad-gummit!  Get your head in the game!”

But when it’s over, it should be over. There should be a moment of shaking one’s self off from a loss, or a brief moment of glee, complete with a little running in the streets.

But for the Clinch family, the completion of the game is only the beginning.  There is the moment immediately following the game where we get to hear the ESPN guys rehash the whole event and then enjoy themselves a fantastic debate.

“I think the second quarter was the turning point in the game,” one announcer will say before he is interrupted by a retired football player in a suit with, “It was the third down conversion that really upped the ante!”

Before long the announcers move on to the next big event, but the football talk is not over. There is the post-game show, the Big 10 wrap-up, and my personal favorite, the coach’s corner.

It’s not all about Saturday either. During the dinner hour every night, a moment we generally reserve for conversation and love, the radio will blare out as one armchair athlete after another phones in his thoughts on the game.

“Uh, yeah, I was wondering. When the quarterback threw the incomplete pass on fourth and short, do you feel the coaching staff should have gone for a field goal?”

Thank you, Capt. Hindsight.

I have been doing this for lo these many years and I’m thinking about changing things up a bit this season and simply enjoying the game with friends who don’t take it so seriously. Perhaps we’ll get our nails painted during the big event and do a little shopping. We could even find a middle age gal to model the latest attire in our team colors.

That sounds great to me! And while we’re at it, let’s get her to make the jalapeno poppers.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.