It is truly the most wonderful time of the year.
I understand that is not terminology usually associated with October, but give me a choice between this and Christmas, and there’s no decision to make. I’ll unapologetically choose these early fall days when the heat has broken (some) and the humidity has subsided.
There is an unmistakable spring in our collective step, and even with chilly mornings, new warmth in our souls.
And if you are a sports fan, especially of Major League Baseball and/or college football, well, it doesn’t get much better.
As I write this, I am still celebrating the Atlanta Braves’ fourth consecutive National League Eastern Division championship. For a team that, until just after the All-Star break, struggled to get to the .500 mark, their end-of-season peak left fans breathless.
New players picked up mid-season, combined with a second-half bullpen that came through in a pinch more than once, contributed to the Braves’ campaign into postseason.
While I have repeatedly said this is not a World Series team (and I am still being realistic, not getting my hopes up), the Braves have proven themselves these past few weeks.
Do they have enough to get past the Dodgers (or anyone else?) I will for sure keep one eye open to watch.
As for my erstwhile lifetime favorites, the Houston Astros, they are right there in the thick of it too, having clinched the AL West.
The ‘Stros broke my heart after their heinous cheating scandal was exposed, calling into question the validity of their 2017 World Series title.
After coming to terms with it, I erroneously predicted a downward spiral for the Astros. That might have been my bitterness coming out, but I felt certain there would be an inability to retain and acquire championship-level players for at least a few years.
Manager Dusty Baker, however, with a steady-as-she goes leadership style, has proven me wrong. The Astros still reign in the American League West, and the pennant is within their grasp.
Have I forgiven them? Well, it still stings, but I’m warming back up (due in large part to Baker) and I’m wearing my Astros polo shirt again. But if it were to be between them and the Braves (not likely, I know), I’ll go National League this year.
If it’s an Astros-Dodgers rematch (from 2017) I don’t know if I can watch that, especially when it’s in L.A.
As for college football, I tend to lose interest mid to late October in favor of postseason baseball. I’m not one to start Saturday mornings with “College Game Day” and shut things down some 14 hours later, bleary eyed, with whatever game Kirk Herbstreit might have called that night.
But this year, post-lockdown, things could get very interesting very fast. I might have one of those marathon Saturdays after all.
As one of my favorite sports pundits put it, “by the end of the season, we always seem to get some combination of Alabama/Ohio State/Clemson and Georgia/Oklahoma, forever and ever, amen.” But he has a real sense this year could be different.
I don’t think anybody doubts the Tide will still be standing come late November, but there are noted chinks in the armors of some of the others.
Clemson and Ohio State have each already lost a game. Notre Dame, trying to justify a top-ten ranking, plods along, but looks as if they could stumble any minute. As of this writing, Florida maintains a No. 10 ranking, but with a loss.
And dare I mention the Arkansas Razorbacks who, as of the time I submit this piece, occupy the No. 8 spot? By the time you read this, they will have played Georgia, and we will know if their “real deal-ness” has been confirmed.
Cincinnati (who played Notre Dame Saturday) and Iowa, other occupants of top-ten spots, give us reason to believe this season, we might see some of the mighty fall.
But there is still plenty of football to play. My pundit friend could be right, but could most certainly be wrong, and we might again have another familiar collection of four playing for the national championship.
All we can do is watch.
And right now, aren’t we lucky to have the best time of the year to do so?
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].