Bill Shanks

There’s nothing like that first college football Saturday

AP

Some games started last week. Some were played Thursday, even a few on Friday. College football, however, is all about Saturdays.

Maybe that’s why I had a hard time sleeping Friday night. I was rolling into the first Saturday of the college football season, and I just couldn’t wait for it to get started. Maybe that’s why I was up at 3 a.m.

There’s something about waking up on a Saturday to head to a college football game. It’s rarely one of those things where you just get up and go. There’s planning to be done, food to assemble and friends to meet before the game.

It is, quite simply, an event.

The NFL is fun to watch, but there’s something about college football. It’s just different, special. It’s something many of us are raised on in the South. It’s just what we do once the temperatures get a little cooler and the leaves start to fall.

The people in New England wouldn’t understand. Let them get ready for Patriots games on Sunday. That’s fine. Saturdays are for us in the South.

Back when every single game wasn’t on TV or the Internet, we had to listen to the radio for most games. Having a game on TV was like receiving a present. I can remember as a kid seeing the one or two Georgia games from Athens on TV and believing it was a different world than any high school game.

I heard Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles, the voices of college football back then and knew it was a special time. More often, I simply would turn on the radio and hear a legend, as Larry Munson would be as descriptive as anyone at what was going on to really give me the picture.

Maybe it’s the atmosphere of being on a college campus again. We return to a simpler place, one that likely had great memories of a time when many of the constraints and worries of today were not part of our thought process. We just were living, learning and growing.

To go back to campus, to remember our time there makes it special.

Then we hear the bands, the hooting and hollering of the fans, some of whom may be a little tipsy. The feeling of college football is palatable when you’re on campus and make that walk to the stadium.

There’s really nothing like it as a sports fan.

Then you enter the stadium and see the other thousands who are there to share the experience. You hear the music, see the players, and as the stadium slowly fills, you wait for that time when the team runs through the banner with the band lining the field.

And then, the kickoff. We don’t hear bands in the NFL like we do in college football. For every big third-down play, there’s some sort of music that makes us feel the pressure, just like a soundtrack to a movie. It builds it up, makes our blood pressure rise and prepares us for the drama that will unfold.

The cash-for-clunker games, as I call them, are just another game. But when there is a rivalry game, one pitting two teams, two schools, two fan bases that despise each other, it’s a day you likely count down to every year. And to lead up to that by giving the other team a little verbal sparring, well, it just makes you feel good.

The teams in the NFL are spread out, but the college teams, the college rivals, are in your backyard. Therefore, it’s a lot more fun, knowing that someone you know probably cheers for the enemy, and to jab at them before the game is what you live for.

Georgia fans love to give it to Auburn fans, while Florida fans usually can shut up Georgia fans. Clemson fans now make everyone keep quiet, except for Alabama fans, who never hush and rightfully so.

It has started. It’s here. Soak it up as it goes quick. Before we know it, before we even blink, the season will be halfway over. But this is our time of year, when we wake up every Saturday and know we have something special to do.

Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on "Middle Georgia’s ESPN" – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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