The word fall feels like it only tells half of the story. It’s almost callously short, baking away all of the colorful connotations of autumn and distilling it to its most coarse. As I cast around in my (albeit faulty) mind for another example, autumn seems to me to be the only season of the year for which there are two terms. Without going into abstracts or calling seasons by association, there are winter (basketball season), spring (baseball/track season), and summer (hot); they are what they are. Fall, on the other hand, is different to different people.
I’ve always preferred autumn to fall, in terms of nomenclature. As unsurprising as it may be to you, dear reader, I’ve always had a weird thing for words. Autumn, with its unusual vowels and muted sequentially-aligned ‘-mn’ ending, always feels like a much better fit for the way I’ve always seen the season that is even now creeping through the high branches of the hardwoods outside my window. It’s an odd thing to have strong feelings about, I realize, but I won’t apologize. I also won’t harp on it for too much longer, except to lead me to my next point (such as it is).
To call it simply fall is to strip away that which makes it beautiful, to underline the negative aspects of the season to the detriment of all that is positive. The word ‘fall’ is seldom tied to a good thing. One can fall from grace; a broken heart may cause a face to fall; I once spent a night in the hospital after a bad fall off of a bicycle. You can fall in love, sure, but you can just as easily fall for a scam on the internet. ‘The Autumn of Rome,’ by comparison, sounds like nothing more than a peaceful time in an empire that definitely isn’t on the brink of collapse. We call it fall based on the final actions of dead leaves; a macabre filter on what would otherwise be a gorgeous picture of the harvest season.
The chill in the morning air, the cool and clear evenings, the comfortably-warm midday breezes that playfully toss yellow and red leaves around; these are autumn. Fall is a car crash; autumn is a leisurely stroll down a trail in the woods. A football game takes place in the fall, of course; the quick and casual violence, the epithets (or mustard bottles, for our neighbors to the west) literally falling from the stands—these are squarely the domain of the fall, of that brutish, truncated season. A bye week is the autumn, a gift in our fast-paced world; time to pause, center oneself and heal from all of the fall that came before, in preparation for braving the fall to come.
This was a long walk to get to a relatively short point (how very autumnal of me), but the fact of the matter is that we find ourselves in the midst of a bye week. For those of us who are hopelessly addicted to this sport, there are still games on, but those will be no more than a brief dalliance when compared to living and dying with every drive down the field for the Tar Heels. This week, the team gets a well-deserved breather, and a chance to refocus for a home stretch that includes a trip to South Bend, a visit from a (currently) undefeated Wake Forest team, and ends with a trip to Raleigh.
Autumn is a beautiful season, and any opportunity to rest up is a golden one. This is a well-deserved bye week for a team with a lot left to play for, as well as for a fan base that has watched the team fall short more than once. Let’s embrace it.