Rollercoasters are a marvel to me. Incredible amounts of energy, supremely focused and harnessed, sending literal tons of metal screaming past giddy onlookers. That impeccably controlled violence, focused on wheels and tracks and bits of specialized machinery, the nearly-imperceptible cushion of physics separating a thrill ride from a tragedy—the people on board delighting in their perceived blurring of that line. It’s all a blur of screeching metal and speed, an all-too-brief smear of color sandwiched in between standing in lines at an amusement park.
Something similar can be said about the college football season. This is one of the longest offseasons in sports, with no preseason games to overreact to nor free agency to speculate about. Even recruiting news dries up eventually, dealing as it does with primarily potential and forecasting and lacking enough concrete information to hold attention for long. This long wait builds anticipation, excitement simmering in the chests of those of us with this particular brand of sickness as the hottest months melt off of the calendar. Absence must indeed make the heart grow fonder since, after over 200 days without football, I am ready to throw my hands above my head and scream at the top of my lungs as the band plays the fight song and the Tar Heels run out onto the field to start a new season.
We’ve done our waiting. We stood in that offseason line, perhaps casting an eye over to other sports from where we stood, occupying our time but at no point forgetting what it was that we were waiting for. Summer camps came, and we got a look at this year’s team as we boarded the carts that coasted calmly into the station. Practice began, and reports about different position groups filtered out, and we began to climb that hill—the tick-tick-tick of both the clock and the cable pulling us slowly but surely towards the tipping point. You can maybe even feel it now, in the pit of your stomach; that tight bundle of nerves. There’s hope there, yes, but there’s also anxiety, and excitement, and perhaps a little dread.
We find ourselves suspended. The climb is all but done, the cart hangs motionless in the air. The college football season starts in two days, and the Heels play in nine. The cable hasn’t cut us loose, not yet, but we’re very nearly there. There’s a breathless anticipation at this part of the ride, at this point in the season. There’s a possibility that it could all go wrong; there’s always a possibilty that it could all go wrong. Each year, we strap ourselves to this fast-moving thing, this barely-controlled yet extremely focused and purposeful violence. We put our hands above our heads and yell at the top of our lungs; maybe to feel better, maybe simply because it’s third down and we need a stop. From the top, right before the cable releases us, we can see it all unfolding beneath us; not readily able to identify the exact twists and turns it will take but looking forward to it all the same. All too soon, we will find ourselves stumbling back into another offseason, blinking at the speed with which the season went by, and then getting back in line to do it again. For now, though, it’s all right here in front of us, and we’re about to dive into it.
Enjoy the ride.