I am writing this on Saturday, just as the college football season starts.
For me, summer officially ends when the first college football game kicks off. It is similar to Opening Day for baseball or the Indiana state basketball sectional week.
Those are the days that mark the passage of time for me. Others of you have different markers, but these markers are important to me.
So today, as I watched Notre Dame beat the stripes off Navy, my mindset changed. Summer seems over and the leaves all of the sudden appear in my yard. The smell of cigar smoke, hot dogs and beer fill my nostrils.
The faraway sound of the drums of marching bands fill my ears and call me back to the days of my youth, when these boys were my age, playing for my schools.
All was well — or was it?
The college football games have changed in nearly every way. The old school 1:30 p.m. kickoffs no longer exist. They have been replaced by TBA times – To Be Announced.
That means the TV people determine, after much research, which matchups deserve the more expensive time slots. The money chase, as it always does, wins out over everything else, including everyone’s convenience.
These days, Saturday is still college football day from 9 a.m. until midnight. But one by one, televised games are slipping off the traditional free channels and onto pay services.
The long-term question is, of course, how long the average fan will treat college football as something of their own. How long until the big boys – Notre Dame among them — go to pay-per-view? Peacock network, anyone?
We have needed the rituals that accompany football Saturday. For some, that means tailgating. Others enjoy second-guessing coaches or bantering about who the better quarterback is. Others see it as an opportunity to sport whole new outfits and create gatherings to show off their new purchases.
All in all, college football just gives us a reason to party and feel good about something that really doesn’t matter.
Sports have always served as an escape. It resembles a war between opposing forces but there are no real consequences; everyone shakes hands and goes home.
And, Lord knows, we need an escape every once in a while. These rituals are good things, partying is a good thing.
But, just like the faraway drums I hear to celebrate the coming of football season, I hear the drums of change, driven by greed.
These aren’t my games. They belong to ESPN and Peacock. Personally, I can no longer cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame or yell “Boiler Up” without a grimace. I no longer attend games. I cannot name the quarterback for any of the teams.
I was once a sports fan, a huge sports fan, but now I know. Football has no place for people like me.
And that makes me a little sad.