“Often when you step out of reality into fantasy, you come face to face with reality.”-The Elder Statesman
If you have read along for any period of time now, you probably know that I don’t blindly follow many cultural and societal norms anymore. I’m a little bit contrarian and a lot bit non-conforming. If society zigs, I usually zag.
But not with football season, and to be specific, college football season. For that, I am 100% in.
Like many categories of my life, I have no specific allegiance. I’ve always liked Penn State football, but I’m not a maniac. Instead, I follow for the environment, the drama, and the emotion. I follow for the freshman walk-on kicker from Nevada that took down Purdue Friday night with a 56-yard game-winner and then immediately got a scholarship.
But I really do it for the travel, working to one day turn my ultimate fantasy into reality.
As soon as I wake up on a fall Saturday morning, as long as Manchester United is not playing, I immediately turn on ESPN College GameDay. I want to know where they are, what the atmosphere is like, what color the leaves are behind them, and what local joints they have eaten at that weekend. It’s my ultimate fantasy. No, not to work for ESPN (I have already done that for a very brief stint thanks to my friend, David Sherwood). But I do want to travel all over the United States for an entire fall reveling in that environment.
A year or two ago, I got into a workplace conversation about ultimate fantasies. Bucket lists. Road trips. So on. It was my turn to pipe in, so I happily shared mine. From Labor Day until the Super Bowl, from Thursday through Sunday, I would travel the nation with whomever would like to join me in the name of football. I would pair the best college towns with the best college games with the best NFL games to create one of a kind experiences each long weekend. No two would remotely resemble each other. I might even throw in a west Texas football Friday night.
There would be cold weather and hot weather. Orange leaves, no leaves, and pine trees. Big cities and the great wide open. Snow and excessive heat. Nail biters and blowouts. Heart stoppers and snoozefests. Plane rides and car rides. Po boys, clam chowder, bratwursts, and more. Cold beer, really cold beer, and maybe even a shot or two. Side outings to golf courses. Naps in The Grove. Walks around campus. I could go on for days.
My heart is pounding just writing this. It won’t be this year, but if you know anything about my penchant for turning fantasy into reality, it will happen.
Over the past two weeks, we have hosted my sister and her family on a rather bizarre 8 day vacation in the Deep South culminating with my brother in law being in the hospital for two days.
I then surprised my father back in North Carolina for his 70th birthday, stopping along the way for a beautiful (and crisp) round at RTJ Grand National in Opelika, Alabama (Auburn country).
On the ride back, I detoured to Selma, Alabama and walked the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge, mulling over the past, present, and future climate of a very messy subject.
Over the next four weeks, it’s more of the same, yet always a little different. Camping out west. More golf. Visiting with a friend or two. And then the 3rd Annual Boys Golf Trip, finishing with Mississippi State at Auburn, assuming we are still alive.
But in between all of this hoopla, I got this past Saturday all to myself. Woke up. Turned GameDay on. And literally immersed myself in this idea all day.
My imagination went from Ames, Iowa to Raleigh, North Carolina to Lincoln, Nebraska to El Paso County, Colorado to State College, Pennsylvania (pause, went and played 27 holes) to Laramie, Wyoming to Arlington, Texas to Los Angeles, California.
I’ve been to so, so many places over the past few years, yet I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’ve been to even more places in my head, painting pictures of what one day it will be like to visit.
My oversized imagination used to be an oversized pain in my side, because big imagination without action can feel very stifling. But once I went all in on action, I now feel very different. It feels like with a little focus, a few bucks, and a little planning, at some point in the future, that will definitely be the greatest autumn ever.
Have a great week.-Benj
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