With high school football starting this past Friday evening across the state of North Carolina, I had hoped to walk outside on Saturday morning to feel the cool, crisp air of fall. Unfortunately, I was hit in the face with a sledge hammer of humidity and the realization that college football Saturdays are still two weeks away.
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading the daily news out of UNC’s football camp, the endless debates on who is going to be the Tar Heels starting quarterback, and trying to predict where the wins and losses are going to be on the schedule, because that means football is just around the corner. However, like my kids, I am really starting to get impatient, and I want the next two weeks to just fly by and for September 2nd to get here already.
I can’t wait for college football Saturdays, especially those in Chapel Hill, because in two weeks the parking lots around town will be filled with tailgaters trying to predict the outcome of the game or debating who should or should not be starting. The cars waiting for a chicken and cheddar biscuit at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen will be backing up traffic on Franklin Street. Family and friends will be gathered around grills talking about events from this past summer, or looking back and reminiscing about the days when they were walking around campus as students.
The smells of barbecue, homemade desserts, and Bojangles chicken will be wafting through the air. There will be games of corn hole being played or the tossing of the footballs, as kids try showing off their arms in hopes of being the next Marquise Williams or Mitch Trubisky. Sounds of excitement from fans for the start of a new season will join the chorus of the local bands playing on the lawns of Frat Court.
In just two weeks, the sidewalks on Franklin will be filled with Carolina blue, as fans show off their newest purchases from Johnny T-Shirt. Alumni will be headed to He’s Not Here to enjoy a blue cup, while sharing stories on one of the picnic benches with old roommates and friends. New and old fans will be fighting over a seat at Sutton’s in hopes of grabbing a bite to eat before the game.
Whatever brick pathway we choose, the pine trees that surround the stadium and make it one of the most beautiful settings in all of college football will welcome us back to a place we have failed to visit for far too long.
I can’t wait to hear the sounds of the marching band welcoming the 2017 Tar Heels out on the field for the first time, hearing UNC’s announcer calling out “First Down...Tar” and the crowd responding “Heels,” and hearing the tolls from the Bell Tower playing “Hark the Sound”, as fans walk back to their cars or to their favorite restaurant on Franklin Street (hopefully after a victory).
I’m excited to bring my kids to games, as they will once again look for Rameses in hopes of getting a hug and a picture. We’ll head to the Old Well Walk to try and shake hands with players who have the same number as they do on their jerseys. They’ll race down and over bleachers in search of pom-poms to wave in excitement after big plays, just like the cheerleaders they are trying to imitate on the field.
I look forward to seeing and learning new names on the field, like Chazz and Dazz, as they become household names like Switzer, Hollins, and Hood. I can’t wait to see the new seats that have been installed in two sections of the stadium and dream of the day when the entire stadium will be filled with Carolina blue seats (and my knees won’t be bruised from the aluminum bleachers), and who will get the loudest applause on the video boards in the “I’m a Tar Heel” commercial.
As the countdown continues to September 2nd, signs of fall will soon emerge: the once quiet brick pathways will be filled with eager learners, pumpkin spice will be everywhere, and leaves will begin changing to a beautiful brown or orange. And Tar Heel football and Saturdays in Chapel Hill will not be far behind.