A life-changing experience. . .
This is my first football season in 46 not working for a newspaper. So people ask me constantly: Do you miss the games?
Good question — and there’s no easy answer. What I miss most, without question: Seeing my sports writing and broadcasting friends every Saturday. It is a fraternity of folks who love what they do, even though they never fail to complain about the industry, the deadlines, the editors back at the office, the TV timeouts and the press box fare. I really do miss that camaraderie.
What I miss least are those rides home, after midnight, dodging deer and fretting over whether: 1) I got the score right; and 2) I did the game justice.
I have gone to games on three weekends this year. I could have gone to more, but I really wanted to see how the other 99 percent spend fall Saturdays. The truth is, I’ve watched an awful lot of TV football. I’ve worked in the yard, gone for walks, barbequed, played golf once (poorly) and spent one Saturday totally void of college football (TV, radio or Internet). That was strange. I didn’t much like it.
I miss the pageantry of it all, sitting high above the scene and taking it all in.
I don’t miss TV timeouts when deadline is looming and the game is on the line.
I miss watching the final minutes from the field, in preparation of interviews, and observing — up close and personal — the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Every game, you learn, is a passion play.
I don’t miss leaning into a crowd of reporters, getting nailed in the head by a TV camera, while trying to hear a 19-year-old mumbling about why he made the mistake that cost his team the game.
I miss watching the games, always searching for the appropriate angle for the next day’s column.
I don’t miss those games when there is no good angle and you have 700 words to write and nothing to say.
I miss those interviews with bright kids who get it, who keep the game in proper perspective and see beyond the field.
I don’t miss the interviews with kids who can’t speak the language and aren’t in college to learn how.
I miss a good press box hot dog.
I do not miss the cold ones with red dye on stale bread.
I miss a good cup of hot, strong, black coffee as deadline approaches.
I don’t miss the press boxes where coffee runs out in the third quarter.
I miss the feedback from readers who agree or disagree with my perspective.
I don’t particularly miss some of the more stinging, abusive critiques.
I miss listening to night games on the way home from day games.
I don’t miss the Atlanta airport.
All in all, I’ve mostly enjoyed this first season without weekly weekend travel. Best thing about it: If the game I’m watching on TV becomes boring or one-sided, I can either turn the channel or go for a walk. I can grind and brew my own coffee, and, when I feel like it, opt for something more potent.
And here’s something I had never done before in my 60 years on this planet: One of the games I did attend was a lousy, one-sided affair. I left at halftime.