We’ll see the Carolina football team at least 12 times this season; 13 if we’re lucky, 14 if the pieces really come together, and 15 in some other dimension where the Tar Heels play for a national title. The exact number isn’t important yet, although it will become exponentially more important as the days of the season dwindle. At the midway point in the season, as we ramp up to Halloween, we will realize what a scarce resource these game days are, and we’ll likely have a better idea of exactly what that final tally will look like. Is there a trip to the ACC Championship game? A bowl game?
Right now, likely as I write, there are Tar Heels putting in offseason work in the hopes of giving the Tar Heel fanbase as many chances as possible to watch their team. There are sprints being run in the summer heat that may just tip the scales and extend the season by one more game. There are weights being lifted and film being watched that we all hope will lead to the tackle or the explosive play that earns the Tar Heels another handful of days and the fans another opportunity to cheer them on.
In nearly any sport, you’re playing for the opportunity to keep playing, but in no sport is that opportunity more precious than in college football, that handful of weekends bridging the changing leaves and the uncompromising onset of winter. For us as fans, this season arrives and is over abruptly; I end each college football season with a sense of general confusion, trying to think back on what exactly I did to fill my time between games and wondering exactly how it’s suddenly early December when I could swear the season just started.
The 2023 football season starts in 51 days at time of publication, and I’m not ready for it. I’m excited for it, of course, but I haven’t done the homework I need to do to feel prepared for a new football season. After all, the 2022 season pretty much just ended.
I live in a college town, and I’m a lifelong fan of the athletic teams fielded by the university here. My internal clock is set to the rhythms of athletic seasons, and I spend my summers in this weird time dilation where each interminably long, hot day somehow hurtles toward the beginning of another season of my favorite sport.
Fortunately, I don’t really have to be ready for it. The work I put in, pale as it is even in comparison to actual sportswriters, is altogether erased when set next to the work put in by athletes nationwide as they prepare for the upcoming season. It won’t be a surprise to them that we are less than two months away from kickoff; the work they have done and continue to do each day is focused entirely on that season that seems so short from the outside looking in.
Sometimes in these dog days of summer, I think about the different ways in which we all prepare for the things we love. As the weeks slide by in a ninety-degree haze, I will tune back in to the frequencies of the college football world, both as a whole and closer to home. I will start to imagine how the season will play out, swing wildly between blind optimism and stark reality, then settle somewhere in a hopefully-reasonable middle ground. I will think I’m well-informed, only to be proven wrong over and over again. I will love it each time. I will be shocked that it’s already September when the season starts, and equally surprised when the season is somehow already over whenever the clock hits zeroes in Carolina’s final game. In between those two moments of confusion, I will get to enjoy the fruits of this offseason labor put in by the Tar Heels.
The quiet work that’s done now is the groundwork for any noise made by the Carolina football team this season, and the basis for a large part of the work we’ll do here at the Tar Heel Blog during the fall months.
That’s a lot of work to do. At least for now, though, there’s still time.