Stepping outside in the morning recently you’ve undoubtedly noticed the seasons, they are a changin’. The sultry summer air is being replaced by a crisp coolness. The sun takes longer to rise and begins to nod off earlier. Signs point to another season of Maine high school football.
I am a self proclaimed basketball enthusiast. It’s a game I grew to love before the hoop went up in the driveway. For two weeks every February and early March I make my way down to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, as well as Augusta and Portland to partake in the annual high school basketball tournament. For three extended weekends in March I hibernate in front of the TV as the greatest national sporting event unfolds, the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Over the years, I have come to love and eagerly await the start of the high school football season. While I love basketball, football season has surpassed that. There is so much to love about fall and football season. September and October generally has the best weather Maine has to offer. There is a cool, crispness to the air. Most days are still fairly warm. Then there is the autumn food. Stews and roasts cooking in the Crock Pot. A hearty chowder with biscuits or maybe some homemade baked beans hit the spot after coming home from a game.
Then there are the fall colors. What produces a better backdrop for an autumn afternoon then the copious amount of colored leaves? Shades of reds, yellows, and oranges paint the landscape with such beauty.
A high school football game on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon in many communities is an event like no other. Make no mistake, these are events. Unlike other sports in which games are played on random days, football schedules are quite predicable. If the field has lights the games are played on Friday nights. If the gridiron is not illuminated the game is played on Saturday afternoon. Everyone can plan accordingly.
High school football is unique as the season is short, really short. Most other sports play year round, between the high school team, travel program, and so on. Not so with football. Teams play an eight game regular season and look to move on to the playoffs with the hope of taking home the gold ball. Once the season is over there isn’t any talk of which off-season team the participants will play in. There is a cruel finality to the end of a football season. Part of this cruel finality is what makes the sport so special. The returning players prepare for next season but the actual playing has to wait through the long winter, then spring and summer, before fall comes back full circle.
While other sports rely on teamwork to be successful, football is the ultimate team sport. In basketball, a couple stud horses puts a program in title contention. Football is a numbers game. An all-state caliber halfback is of little use without a line blocking for him.
For the next twelve Friday nights and most Saturday afternoons, you’ll know where to find me. Bring on the most wonderful time of the year.