I’ve always enjoyed the North Carolina heat. When I was younger, this change in the weather meant the end of classes, and the fleeting eternity of a grade-school summer that followed. In high school, it meant the beginning of summer practices; optional in name only, starting with team conditioning and slowly accelerating towards eventual two-a-days in the peak of the North Carolina summer. When you spend as much time outside as I did growing up, you’re able to sense the subtle changes of the seasons far earlier, as if Mother Nature herself recognizes you and is letting you in on the secret. The heating-up feels more gradual, more recognizable, more like an old acquaintance than a force of nature.
Yesterday, I stepped out of my house, wearing the sweatpants that I wear to my day job these days, and was greeted immediately by a wall of heat. Not the friendly heat that ushered in that boyhood period of relative freedom, mind you, but a hostile heat, a different kind of heat. It’s to be expected, I suppose, after spending as much time inside as I have been, to be surprised by this gradual (and obvious) change of the seasons that had snuck up on me so completely.
In my adult life, even after graduation when the summer lost some of its shine, the heat would bring a certain optimism. This change in the weather signified another change, a turning point, the home stretch for a lifelong football fan waiting on pins and needles. After the Spring Game, news would begin to trickle in from summer camps, and the promise of a new season would never fail to make me nostalgic. The Tar Heel faithful, likely having picked our favorite fresh faces to watch in the April scrimmage, would hang on every word out of Coach’s mouth to see who was showing the most promise for next season. These bits of news would sustain us through the remainder of the offseason, and we always knew that a new football season would be here even before the heat even fully left.
This year is different, and maybe that’s why the heat was so surprising, so mean. My own personal circadian rhythm, the one centered around the ebb and flow of collegiate athletic seasons, wasn’t fully able to alert me to the changing of the seasons, as it has in every preceding year. There’s no guarantee that there will be a football season this year. There’s not even really a consensus on whether or not there should. The heat is here, though, and there are currently plans in place to let the wheels begin to turn to drag us toward a new season.
There are plenty of other things at the moment to occupy our minds; things that matter far, far more than a Tar Heel Blog writer stepping outdoors in sweatpants and having the audacity to be surprised by the heat of North Carolina in June. But that heat has always held promise to me, even when I’m not properly dressed for the occasion.