COLUMN: Spring football: The ultimate tease

Brad Stephens

It’s 9:30 on a Thursday night.

Here stands a 20-year-old casually walking into the front door of a certain College Street bar with four of his buddies.

“Hey, cool,” he thinks. “This’ll be a good time. Only the sign out front says no one under 21 is allowed after 10.

“But it’s 9:30. So I’m cool.”

Our 20-year-old friend sits at a table with his buddies. He’s talking, having a good time. “Oh, hey, there’s… from the jungle mixer… Sarah? Jessica? Hmm. Hey, sweet, someone turned on ‘Jack and Diane.’ Hold on, I know the words! ‘Changes come around real soon make us go swimmin’ again!’ Wait, ‘make us live on a whim’? ‘Make us women and men’? Ah, who cares?”

It’s 10:15, and our underage friend is having a great time. But little does he know, it’s all about to get taken away from him.

Soon, a large man with a 5 o’clock shadow walks up to the table. He wants to check IDs.

Our friend, always too scared to get a fake, removes his driver’s license. He hangs his head, knowing he’s been bested.

The large man squints at the picture of our friend from his floppy-haired, letter jacket-wearing teenage years then looks at the date.

“Come back in a few months,” he says.

Our friend’s night is done before it hardly began, and he must wait until he can come back for good.

That’s exactly the feeling college football guys like myself will soon be experiencing.

The signing classes are set.

The coaching carousel, save for a motorcycle joy ride, has stopped.

I can lean out a classroom window and hear shoulder pads cracking and coaches cussing at spring practices.

Heck, the local team is even playing a live scrimmage open to the public this Saturday.

Surely we must be just days away from the first run through the “T,” the first dotting of the “i,” the first flight of the War Eagle, the first 3:30 Saturday afternoon chortle of Verne Lundquist?!

Nope. Because after Saturday, after we watch 80 guys play for steak and Jolly Ranchers while coaches pray no one gets hurt, it’ll all be over until August.

There’s no crueler tease in the sports world than spring football.

In every other sport, there’s a definitive off-season in which nothing happens on the field that resembles what happens during the season.

But for some reason, it’s a college football tradition that, right after basketball ends, we be shown real live practices and an open intrasquad scrimmage before shutting it down for four months.

It’s a tradition that’s downright frustrating.

I’ll wait patiently for the night of Aug. 30, when South Carolina and Vanderbilt officially kick off the season.

Between now and then, I’ll tune in to hear Tammy and Legend “hang up and listen” to Finebaum, thumb through Phil Steele’s season preview, check out WKU kicker ratings on the new NCAA ’13 or do whatever else it takes to get me there.

Yes, college football will be back, kinda, sorta, on Saturday.

We just won’t see it again for a few months.