There’s a golden summer light splashing through the window beside my desk, falling heavily onto my keyboard and briefly setting aflame the dust motes and dog hairs stirred by the fan lazily turning overhead. A clock ticks somewhere in another room; counting down the late-afternoon minutes as the day winds down. The sunlight spilling through this window, bereft of its heat after yet another long day of beating down ceaselessly on parked cars and blacktops, is half as thick as honey. It drips off of the leaves of the oaks and sycamore trees outside, filtering through pine needles before settling in my little corner of this apartment, setting it aglow for a few minutes before the shadows of the woods surrounding the building grow longer and longer as day turns to night.
Three miles away for a car, or just over two for our feathered friends, there are folks hard at work behind the scenes. While I sit in my computer chair, spinning slowly side-to-side, soaking in the sunlight for these few moments and trying to think of something to write, there are people who are trying to think of answers to questions that we haven’t even thought to ask yet for the upcoming season. There are coaches watching game film today to build a defensive scheme that won’t be discussed for weeks. There are players putting in extra reps in the weight room, or running extra sprints, to give themselves an edge for the eventual moment in which that extra rep is the thing that tips the scales between victory and defeat. There are administrators and staffers running crazy to make sure the team has what it needs to be successful in the coming months. There are Bojangle’s ad folks brainstorming ways to work the word ‘supreme(s)’ into a Heisman campaign. This has the potential to be a special season, no doubt; but only if all of this work is put in ahead of time.
There are better writers than I currently writing previews of each Carolina position group right here on this very blog, beginning to get fans prepared for what’s to come. There are national folks covering the landscape of college football at large, setting up a way for us to frame the successes and failures of our Heels on a larger scale. There are talking heads on the four-letter network reacting to all of this work being done and presenting it to a larger audience. All of this work is vital, and there’s a reason the stage directions come before the dialogue in a play. Without the effort put in to set expectations and establish context, our responses to the way the season will play out can only be reactionary, and that’s not nearly as much fun. How would we poke fun at opposing fanbases for their crushed dreams if those dreams aren’t made built up before the season starts?
Without a set, actors are just folks yelling onstage. Without context, a college football season is just game after game until basketball season starts. The work that’s going on now is imperative to how we understand the season as it plays out, and ought not be missed.