I’ve had this recurring dream lately. You might even call it a fantasy. 

The first thing I sense is the smell of freshly cut grass. That’s shortly overtaken by the alluring odor of burgers on the grill.

Soon, a blurry picture begins to come into focus, but first there are the sounds. A marching band belting out the national anthem, followed by a fight song. Cheerleaders chanting their traditional encouragements. 

A public address announcer is imploring the gathering crowd to be nice and show good sportsmanship and, while they’re at it, support any of the numerous business who are sponsoring the local team.

And then I see it clearly. Those glorious, distinctive Friday night lights. They are like an angelic halo surrounding the stadium.

At ground level, I see a pack of players on opposite ends of the field go charging through a paper sign with some not-so-nice messages for that night’s

opponent. Folks on each side leap from their seats and let out a roar. 

A select group of players meet at midfield for the coin toss, the winner choosing to kick off so they can get the ball to start the second half of the game.

And finally, after what feels like hours, the two teams take the field for the opening kickoff. The referee raises his hands and blows the whistle. The kicker begins his slow walk toward the ball before planting his foot and cocking his opposite leg. 

The 2021 high school football season is here. At least I think it is. Because before toe meets leather, I wake up. 

Just 30 days from now, my dream could be realized. That’s the scheduled start of the new gridiron season. 

And yet, I can’t help feeling a little uneasy. The bitter memories of last year linger.

Sure, the season, albeit a disjointed one, went off. But it never felt right.

Up until game day, you were never sure if a certain game would actually happen. When it did,  there were half-empty stadiums. Everyone was required to mask up. The bands were often absent. 

After the opening Friday night, I didn’t even bother to try and run down a coach or player for post-game comments. Nobody felt safe shaking hands or having an up-close conversation.

As of now, it seems we’re in the clear. Vaccines are abundant and the virus appears to be on the wane. But there are no guarantees. 

As tough as it was, 2020 provided lots of valuable lessons, not the least of which was to never take anything for granted. 

So as we start the countdown for a new prep football season, I’m hoping for the best. But until I see that kicker’s leg complete his follow through and send that oblong ball sailing through a crisp fall sky, the 2021 season remains only a dream.

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