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College football finally arrives
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You can’t tell it by the weather, but the season is here.

The weather is as hot as it has been all summer, but there is a great feeling when college football season arrives.

It’s not a completely Southern thing. The start of football is a big deal in other parts of the country, but it is the topic of many conversations right now.

On a recent evening, I went to dinner with friends who are fans of Florida, Florida State and Auburn. We went on for a while about football and other important topics such as the best tailgating experience in the Southeastern Conference.

One guest at the table was from Vermont. There is no college football in Vermont. They gave it up in 1975.

He couldn’t visualize 100,000 people showing up in one place for a football game. That’s one-sixth of the population of Vermont. He also couldn’t fathom the price die-hard fans pay for season tickets or the required donation to the athletic fund.

Television has made watching the game at home an incredible experience. They have dozens of cameras that capture every imaginable angle. I’m old enough to remember when they started using instant replay. Today that seems old hat.

I miss the radio guys. I used to get chills when I heard Larry Munson say “Get the picture,” for the first time in a season. The same was true for guys such as Jim Fyffe of Auburn, John Ward of Tennessee and Al Ciraldo of Georgia Tech. They all had their trademark sayings that made the faithful swell with pride.

The new guys are good. Georgia’s Scott Howard honed his skills at Munson’s side during his final years in the booth. But sadly, the days are gone when you would turn down the TV sound and turn up the radio. For one thing, you can’t get them to sync up on the play calling.

There is also something magical about being there. You will exchange high-fives and a good strong “How ’bout them Dawgs” with an absolute stranger who shares you citizenship in the Bulldog Nation.

The tailgating experience has changed. Many folks now opt for a stop at a supermarket deli for the main course of their pregame food fest. I don’t know if there are too many women who get up early on a Saturday morning to cook fried chicken.

But the food, the fellowship and the fun of college football make it an experience that is unique and memorable.

While we begin the season when it’s still hot as heck, the start of college football reminds us that fall, the season we most associate with the sport, is not far away.

Hot, cold or rainy, those of us who love the game will drink it in like a magic elixir that is the only cure for our weekly diet of the sport.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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