Ron Seibel

Football’s start eclipses Olympics

A man walks past a shadow of a set of Olympic rings in the Olympic Park ahead of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday.
A man walks past a shadow of a set of Olympic rings in the Olympic Park ahead of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday. AP

Give credit to the soccer fans in Rio.

Two days before the start of the Olympics, the Brazilian fans (and likely others) who attended the U.S. Women’s National Team opener against New Zealand were already worked up. They gave U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo the “star” treatment, booing every time she touched the ball.

At a couple of points, they directed “Zika” chants at her, in reference to a photo she posted on Instagram in which she covered her head in netting and displayed a large bottle of mosquito repellent.

Solo took it all in good fun. Beats playing in front of a crowd in which you could hear a pin drop, she said afterward.

Despite sanitation issues and a Brazilian government that changes leaders frequently, those attending the Olympics the next two weeks will have their fun. Many of us will watch and see if Michael Phelps can add to his record medal haul in swimming, to see if Kerri Walsh Jennings can win another gold in beach volleyball alongside new partner April Ross, and, in perhaps the most anticipated activity in any Summer Olympics, to see how animated Bela Karolyi will get while watching the U.S. gymnastics team.

All good. But something much more important to Middle Georgians is about to take center stage.

Football’s starting up.

Sure, Eatonton’s Vincent Hancock is aiming for another gold in the shooting competition. And let’s not forget Central grad Lindsay Grogan, who qualified for the U.S. Paralympic swim team that will compete next month in Rio. But Middle Georgians also will have their eyes cast on events closer to home the next couple of weeks as football kicks into high gear.

The excitement begins Saturday at Georgia and Georgia Tech, with both schools holding fan days. Georgia will conduct an open practice from 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Sanford Stadium, an event sure to draw thousands as the Bulldogs launch their first preseason practice under head coach Kirby Smart. Georgia Tech won’t have an open practice, but a fan autograph and picture event will take place at 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m. for season ticket holders) at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

For NFL fans, things get started Sunday night, with Green Bay taking on Indianapolis in the Hall of Fame Game. Sure, it’s an exhibition, but doesn’t one series with Aaron Rodgers and one series with Andrew Luck beat anything NFL-related that has gone on since the draft? The Falcons open up preseason play Thursday at home against Washington.

Even the high school game is going to infringe on the Olympics. GISA play begins next week, with Windsor and John Milledge among the teams hosting games, then the GHSA gets going during the final week of the Olympics with a blockbuster weekend that includes a standout Thursday night doubleheader at Five Star Stadium that will air on Fox Sports South, along with Friday night headliner games that include Northside-Warner Robins and Howard-Westside.

With all of that football going on, who in Middle Georgia has time to really follow the Olympics in-depth?

As long as Hancock and Grogan do well and we get to see the highlight reel of Karolyi’s Rio reactions, it’s all good. Bonus points for added gold for Phelps and Jennings. And if the Solo vs. Brazil rivalry grows legs, we’d like to see that, too.

Otherwise, how many days until toe meets leather?