Football season has begun! Fall is, by far, my favorite time of year; and football has a lot to do with that. Soon enough, the weather will cool off, but not yet make me afraid to step outside; the hillsides will be painted in all kinds of gorgeous colors; fall festivals will give way to preparations for the holiday season, and I will be able to wear sweaters.
And amid all those other wonderful things, Thursdays through Mondays of every week (and even, sometimes, Wednesdays!) there will be football. Baseball is still hanging in there, and hockey is on its way, but the star of the season is the sport that causes me more joy and pain than any other. I am, after all, a West Virginia University fan.
I won't get into the high hopes I have at the beginning of every single WVU football season. In fact, let's leave the on-field aspect out of this.
Football season means meeting up with old friends on a Saturday afternoon to catch up in the parking lot before heading in to the stadium to become, perhaps, a little less civil in our declarations. It means spending early-season games sweltering in the seats, knowing that by the end of the season you'll be as bundled up as a person can get, and still wish you had more places to stash those little hand and foot warmers. Hot chocolate for sale at the concession stand? Bring me seven, please.
Football season means it is OK for folks to be dedicated fans of a marching band - even get chills when they take the field, despite having heard the same rendition several times annually for many years. And it means getting to stand in a stadium with those same friends from earlier, swaying together and singing "Country Roads" along with thousands of other people after the games.
Football season is magical. The weather, the atmosphere, the people, and, oh yeah, the excitement of the games, make it the kind of season in which even the lows aren't too low. Most of the time.
Fantasy football is about to begin, too. It is really just another excuse to hang out (electronically, if nothing else) with more of those friends who might not be in the picture all year long. And don't forget Steelers-watching parties on Sundays. Football food is the best, too.
But if you've spotted a pattern here, you're starting to see why I love this season so much - and only part of it is because I like to watch football. In a way that does not happen when families gather over the holidays, or during the long march from winter into spring, or during the summer when everyone seems so scattered, football season and the fall often mean spending time with good friends.
Of course, I will be shouting my half of "Let's go, Mountaineers!!" at the top of my lungs when the time comes. But I won't be doing so by myself, and the opportunity to loudly celebrate my favorite team with friends (and hot chocolate) is something pretty special.
Have a happy and safe Labor Day tomorrow, everyone. The unofficial kickoff to fall is yet another opportunity for backyard gatherings and celebration. But please be responsible in enjoying those moments with family and friends.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org