I’m getting on a plane tonight.
I’ll be flying through the night to the east coast. Back home. The 2013 college football season kicks off in two days and there isn’t anywhere else I want to be. It’s becoming a tradition.
You see, last season started this way. I was back on the east coast doing shows (Ed. note: Scott is a comedian when not covering sports) and I hadn’t been home in almost a year.
I took an overnight train from New York City back to the small town that I’m from in Connecticut. Then I walked 2 miles at 5:30 in the morning from the train station to my house because in small shore towns, there aren’t cabs waiting for you and I didn’t want to wake anyone up.
I went inside and fell asleep. Kickoff was at 10am. No one woke up me up until halftime. I guess they repaid the favor.
Our team, Notre Dame, had already destroyed Navy by that point, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to be there, watching the game with the most important people in my life.
The college football season is a magical thing. It’s the one season that is the closest to how real life works.
Because in life and college football, it does matter where you start. If you’re ranked outside the Top 25 ath the beginning of the season, it’s going to be really hard to get to the top by the end. But it’s not impossible.
In life, your actions and decisions do hold a great deal of power in your success and happiness, but ultimately, you are at the mercy of outside factors. What other people say and do will affect you. Memphis Bleek will always be one hit away his whole career. And there’s nothing he can do about it.
Whichever school you root for, it’s destiny isn’t in it’s own hands. Right now, if Alabama and Ohio State run the table, your school won’t have a place to sit come January 6th.
Can USC pull off the ultimate turnaround? Last year it started the season ranked number 1 and ended without a top 25 ranking or a quarterback. Maybe this year it will be the opposite and it will take a charity ranking of 24 and rise to the National Championship game. It’s not impossible. Just ask Notre Dame.
Last season was a miracle. The Irish went from almost unranked on the first day of the season to competing in it’s first National Championship game since 1993, in just 12 games.
Notre Dame won two games in overtime and two others by a 3-point margin. There were moments last season when the world seemed to stop and shift a tiny bit so that a field goal attempt would go just a bit wider or the 1 yard-line would stretch just a bit longer. Then time would resume and Notre Dame would stay undefeated.
Those are the moments we live for, the moments where everything goes right and there is no way to explain it. Call it magic. Call it fate. Call it the luck of the Irish. Whatever it is, it’s real and it can happen any Saturday.
During each game last season I’d text my brother. We’d follow along at the same time on opposite sides of the country. Each win felt a little more important and a little more improbable. We had game day traditions. I would only wear my Notre Dame jersey the day after the game. He would wear the opposite home or road jersey on game day. Towards the end of the season, even my youngest brother and Mom took more than a casual interest in the games.
Something special was happening. We could all feel it.
That’s what the college football season brings to the table. Every Saturday there is a game that will make or break a season. Except, even when it does, it really doesn’t. There are so many chances. An early loss is erased by a late season winning streak. A perfect campaign can be destroyed on the last game of the year.
Maybe that isn’t fair. But life isn’t fair. There will always be a tragedy that goes unexplained and there will always be good fortune that goes to the undeserving. At the same time there will always be hope.
Turn on the TV any Saturday and watch. What you’re seeing is where hope meets potential. You don’t even need to be rooting for a team to get sucked in. You can see it on the faces of the players and the fans. An entire group of people coming together and holding their collective breath, knowing that today could be the day, that changes everything.
Sure, the kids on the field are being victimized by a system where everyone but them profits. And yes, the NCAA is a crooked organization built on cheap labor to support an archaic system of corporate greed and kickbacks. Believe me, I know.
That’s why college football is perfect.
It’s the good and the bad. It’s the hope, the despair and the silliness. Seriously, go to any campus in America, you’ll see things that don’t make sense, yet make perfect sense on game day.
College football season reminds us, that like it or not, we’re all in this together. The big schools with all their money and fancy facilities and the small schools who paint their fields just to get noticed all still play the same game, with the same rules.
Before we knew it, Notre Dame had gone undefeated. Our school (Full disclosure: no one in my family has attended Notre Dame, but I watched Rudy when I was 10, and that was enough for me) was playing Alabama for the National Championship. I took another flight.
This time it was to do a movie that was shooting in New York. The night of the game, after being on set for almost 10 hours, I took a train to my brothers’ college outside the city.
The plan was to end the season the way it started. All of us together, and a Notre Dame win.
Honestly, I don’t remember much from the game. I fell asleep on a common room couch, in a college dorm, before the end of the first quarter. My brothers let me sleep. From what I hear, I didn’t miss much. The real end to that season wouldn’t come until a few weeks later.
Yet, for every story of a heartless hustler there will be a story of a hero, for every cheater, a champion. Then just as quickly as they came, they will be forgotten. There’s another game, another story and ultimately another season.
And that’s where we are. Back again with a new season, a new hope and a new journey to embark on.
Every season college football reminds us of the ultimate truth: All your team can do is be prepared, give it everything it has and understand everything else is out of it’s control. Just like life.
I’ve got a flight to catch.
Scott Christopher is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. Follow him @ScottC247