When frenzied anxiousness mixes with sheer joy, it can be a dangerous cocktail. Similar to waiting your first sixteen years of life to be able to drive a car in which you control the radio, the windows, and the speed with which it transports is a seemingly endless task. But when the moment arrives, and the ignition is in the process of turning over, the excitement and the nervousness both make the palms a bit sweaty.
Which is why when it is finally time - you sprint! You run as fast as you’ve run in just over a year. You chug along as if you have a shot at breaking the 4.4 in the 40 and every NFL scout is watching. You dart towards The Start of Actual College Football as if being chased by Richard Tardits and Bill Stanfill’s lovechild.
It’s here. Grab it tight now in case it decides it’s going to leave you behind.
"Please have identification and completed calendars ready for check in...."
Yes, you wake up one day and there it is - the day you circled on the calendar 247 days ago. One evening you fall asleep in the same state of misery you've endured for several months and when the sun beams through the blinds again - it's here!
Yes, the wait is over.
You eagerly take your place at the end of the line, taking a moment to absorb the chill in the air and the crispness of the breeze. You lift your face up to the skies and yell at the top of your lungs “SCREW YOU AUGUST HUMIDITY AND YOUR FAT BASTARD FRIEND NO BREEZE!! THERE’S A NEW OCCLUDED FRONT IN TOWN!!!”
You’re not even sure if that makes any damn sense at all, but you can't take the smile off your face. And that’s okay. Neither can anyone else. You look at the guy that has taken the place in line behind you and say, "We made it!"
Highfives. Fistbumps. Hugs. Tears of joy.
"Thank you for your interest in the 2015 College Football Season. Current wait time for this checkpoint is no longer than...Herschel Walker minutes."
You stand on the tips of your toes, both literally and figuratively, and crane your neck to catch a glimpse. Ahead you can make out what appears to be Leonard Floyd doing warm ups. You think you can hear the Redcoats, but it's still too far away to be sure. It might just be the same recording of the fight song you've been restlessly listening to since New Years Eve.
The line moves up some and that's when you see the security guards running after some dipshit in an Auburn t-shirt. They encircle him but he dives through their grasp and sprints through the gates.
You consider the prospect momentarily before gently shaking the thought from your mind. You whisper to yourself, “Patience. We’ve made it this far. Don’t panic and everything will be okay.”
The self advice rings somewhat hollow. And yet you still abide.
"Attention: here at the Southeastern Terminal, participation is always religiously encouraged, but satisfaction is never, ever guaranteed."
Yes, but this year could be the year! Word is the whole team has bought in and has practiced hard. You've read all about the new freshmen that are expected to contribute. Plus, Coach even smiled at you at Picture Day when you asked him if this was the year.
"Could be son. Could be."
You're really close now. You take yet another moment to triple
quadruple quintuple check that each day of your calendar is marked off; a testament to your patience and perseverance. Right on cue you hear a scream from the back, "DAMMIT BUTCH!! HOW COULD YOU FORGET TO MARK OFF A DAY IN APRIL??!!?? I DON'T CARE HOW EASY IT IS TO FORGET!!"
When you turn back around, the queue that remained in front of you is now completely behind you. Yes, it’s your turn!
“Good morning sir. Welcome to the next season.”
“I need to see your registration, identification, 2015 calendar, and hear your team's 2015 password.”
The smiling lady in the sharp blue blazer is not even finished with her opening greeting before you’ve already offered the documents to her and scream,
And it’s then that your olfactory sense takes over. The sights and sounds were true, but the smells! Oh God in Heaven the smells!
Slowly burning leaves. Bourbon. All of the meats suspended over glowing charcoal embers. The ladies decked out in team colors who gave that extra splash of perfume. And of course, simply Autumn itself. Sweet, blessed Autumn. How you’ve missed the nape of her neck.
It’s all there. Both a wave of memories and a wave of hopes and aspirations collide in your brain. The result is euphoria.
You knew it would get here. But all of the waiting breaks you down until your soul is a dark clump of doubt. You kept looking out of your window but all you could see were bare trees and empty, lifeless mascot costumes. So you do exactly what you’ve done every year since 1892 - you draw the curtains and watch old game tape on Betamax. Worley runs all over Jacksonville until you fall asleep in your armchair.
“Sir? Sir! You okay?”
“Oh, sorry. Yes. I’m great."
“Good.” She hands your documents and calendar back. “Everything’s in order. So here’s your pass. Have a great season!...NEXT!!”
The first thing you do is point directly and menacingly at Coach McElwain, but you're not sure if he can see you through his hair. Chubb shakes your hand without breaking it. Oh, and there's Malzahn tying Muschamp's shoes. You ask Derek Mason to refill your solo cup and make your way towards the tailgate.
From behind you a voice lifts up above the din of Saturday morning noise. You turn around to see Larry Munson lift his cup in your direction.
"Don't sleep on this Louisiana Monroe defense Bernie. They're gonna come in with bad intentions, mark my words."
Yessir. Go Dawgs!