What I think actually triggered it was articulating aloud, for the first time, the finite number of days left before training camp opened (ten, then), and days left until the Washington Redskins first preseason game (24) against the Ravens in Baltimore.
Or maybe it was the drizzle, I don't know. Either way, it was like a light switch being flipped on.
So yesterday I sat down to write about it ... because this is the part of the game I think I might love the most, the part that sends me back to my keyboard year after year rekindled, refreshed and renewed; the escapism, the unselfconscious ritual, the breaking out of a familiar inner burgundy and gold tapestry and pulling it on lovingly, a favorite heavy sweatshirt against the first fall chill.
And so there I am, typing away ... until about halfway into paragraph two, when out of the corner of my eye I see this black cat walk slowly across the doorway, stop, shake itself, and walk on out of frame.
Which is weird, because I don’t have a cat.
But, as I often remind myself, writing is a lonely place, particularly when your Muse is racked out snoring in her hammock totally not helping, and about half the time I don’t know what’s going on around me anyway. So I went back to work.
I hadn’t written but another sentence or two when out of the corner of my eye I saw a black cat walk slowly across the doorway, stop, shake itself, and walk on out of frame.
“Whoa,” I said, aloud. “Deja vu.”
My Muse, generally a heavy sleeper, opened an eye and rolled it slowly my way.
“What did you just say?”
“Nothing.” I replied, probably a bit too quickly. “Just had a little deja vu.”
She propped herself on an elbow, mildly interested. “What did you see?”
“A black cat went past us ... and then another that looked just like it.” What can I say—my inner dialogue ain’t always Shakespeare.
She sighed, picked her reading glasses up from the little stand next to the half-full Bloody Mary and copy of Pillars of the Earth she’d been reading (for like the fifth time) and stuck them on her nose. She leaned forward and peered at the words on the screen.
When she'd finished, she turned and gave me one of those looks. She’s not very good at hiding bemusement or sarcasm, this one.
“How much like it? Was it the same cat?”
My healthy male pride rose to the challenge. “Might have been, I’m not sur—“
I stopped. Wait a minute, I’ve seen this movie.
I read what I’d just written:
“ ... and so football is back, and with it one of the rare chances a responsible, grown man (a relative term) has to transport himself back to childhood and relive a few days of wonder. Days like the final countdown to Christmas when all is right and magical with the world, dreams are about to come true, and thinking about it all too hard becomes almost unbearable ....”
I looked at her.
She looked at me.
I grinned a quick, cheesy grin, sighed, and navigated down to the file marked “redskins columns.”
July 23, 2007
Then, just about the time you've settled into the familiar rhythms of summer, you look up at the calendar one day and there it is—training camp is opening. Football is back ...
If you are reading these words, chances are the autumn game is in your blood. And as every year at this time, chances are you're experiencing feelings like those you remember from childhood.
Like the final, magical days before Christmas for instance, when the enormity of it would well up several times a day and hit you full force, making your breath catch, your pulse quicken and the anticipation become all but unbearable.
To those of you who know what I'm talking about, welcome back ... and to those hardened souls who cannot or will not let their inner child out to play, I am sorry for your loss. Life isn't about meeting expectations or reaching destinations, the magic is in the journey. And few things summon magic quite like the game of football.
It's so much more than just the final score. It's Sunday morning preview shows savored over coffee and a crisp sports page. It's solemn and unselfconscious ritual, selecting everything from the right mug to the right jersey to the perfect spot on the couch and distance to the coaster. It's tailgate parties with friends who understand.
It's well-thrown leather hissing your way through the morning air before popping solidly into your hands. It's digging for an icy beverage to cool the bite of a spicy buffalo wing. It's hearty hand-shakes, high-fives and knowing grins.
It's the churn in your gut as the minutes slow to a crawl (because time can be strange) during the inexorable countdown to kickoff. And finally, when the ball rises off the tee against a riotous backdrop of fellow revelers, it's rising with it, fists raised and head thrown back, adding your voice to the thunderous roar.
Anticipation? You could say that.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
What do you think fellow travelers ... ready for some Redskins football?