The Essence of Gameday

311079_10150271592352397_165747_nAn alarm will wake me at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday. I’ll reach for my phone, likely knock it off its nightstand, then be forced to rustle my body from its abbreviated slumber in searching for the source of my momentary discontent.

Groggy and confused, I’ll look out the window and be forced to think, actually think, before I understand why I’ve chosen to rise so early on — What day is today? Do I have to go to work? Is it…Saturday? — a weekend. The realization will hit me and I’ll be up, sleep washing away from my brain as quickly as the initial bout with irritation set in a minute earlier. And from there, maintenance. Shower, clothes, shoes, stuff.

I’ll pace the apartment checking off a list in my mind, ensuring I’m leaving nothing behind, as my girlfriend does whatever it is girls spend so much time doing in the bathroom. Friends will arrive. We’ll load up the back of the car until it’s weighed down by the excess. We’ll run through the mental checklist once or twice more — tickets, don’t forget the tickets — and then go.

A grocery store first for all the things we don’t need but do need. Because no one needs that much Busch Light, but come on. Water, get lots of water, this is an all-day affair, we’re going to need water. So we’ll get water. And maybe some hot dogs, bread, snacks, things that don’t necessarily correlate but will ultimately satiate, no matter their nutritional relationship — a three-to-one male-to-female ratio does not an efficient shopping trip make. Self-checkout line and at least one person asking the ultimate question: “Oh, you must be going to the game today. What time is that at?” Seven. “Seven?” Seven. And then confusion mixed with intrigue on the part of our interrogator. It will be 8:30 a.m.

An empty highway as a corridor to a familiar place we haven’t seen in 21 months. A parking lot, an oasis, a home for the day, for a season.

We’ll stop and get out, open the vehicle, and begin extracting the excess from the back of the car. Before we finish unloading a canopy, however, someone will grab a football and throw it. The distractions of the day will begin, 9:30 a.m., no later.

Steadily as the sun makes its way west, events will materialize around us. Louder, busier, with the soundtrack of neighboring speakers and the aroma of grilled meat providing a backdrop for the morning. The crowd will trickle in, mirroring our demeanor as it arrives. The earliest attendees will appear without fanfare, covertly emerging amidst our landscape of concrete expanse without a sound, leaving us to react surprised — “Hey! You’re here!” — upon discovery. But as more tables unfold, as the music gets louder, as ping pong balls go flying and splashing libations signal fragments of victory one cup at a time, as leather oblongs take to the air and whispers turn to shouts, the midday masses will bring with them a raucousness, a rowdiness, a celebration.

There will be yelling and laughing, trash-talking, cheering, hugging and high-fiving, drinking and eating. Contests of dimwitted awesomeness that mean so much and so little at the very same time. Storytelling of events past, anticipation of events future. We’ll sit and talk, then get up and be stupid, sit down again and rest, then take off in search of excitement. There will be eight hours of this restlessness, all leading up to a kickoff that signifies the end of one party and the beginning of another.

We may win. We may lose. Looking back on that day, though, we won’t remember the numbers and we might forget the outcome. But we’ll recall the event. And we’ll recall the moments. And we’ll remember who we were with. And we’ll remember how we felt. We’ll relive the emotions. We’ll talk about that day on future days just like it. We’ll smile when we think about some of the things we did that day. We’ll be thankful we had that day. Because that day, that event, will be one of the greatest days, one of the greatest events.

This will be gameday. This day is almost here.

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