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A part of me doesn’t think it’s football until right now.

The weather has cooled.

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Monte Dutton

When I was a boy, people used to say “there’s a crack in the air,” and since I just tried to look up the term and found little that wasn’t scientific, musical or irrelevant, it must have just been one of those local sayings that don’t spread too far because they don’t make much sense. It must mean that the heat has cracked and allowed some cool to descend.

Whatever it is, it appeared for the first time during the past weekend. I wasn’t sweaty.

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When I practiced football for the last time – in high school – it was more memorable than the last time I played. It was the 1st time I realized that the autumn is colorful, not just because the leaves change but because everything is more vivid. As we left the stadium, shadows had crept across most of the field, but bright sunlight bathed the hill at one end and the wall behind it. Coach didn’t let us walk to the locker room after practice or take our helmets off. I walked that day because I was bathing it all in. What was he going to do? Kick me out of the state championship game?

We will never pass this way again.

A soundtrack drifted through my mind, and it was the 1st time I had an inkling of how much I was going to miss it.

Beyond that, I love sports in the daytime. The colors illuminated by natural sunlight enchant me. Beauty gets overwhelmed by discomfort until the steamy weather runs its course.

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On Saturday at Furman, everything was perfect except the football game. High cumulus clouds drifted across the sky as if they were battleships from Star Wars. The sky is powder blue in the summer. It’s Petty blue in the fall. For those born too late and unaware of the legend, Petty blue is an electric hue, originally invented by a mixture concocted in the Level Cross, N.C., garage that provided Plymouths for Richard Petty’s use.

The summer seems hazy and bleached out. I tinker with a lot of photos. The fall seems as if the contrast and color have been turned up. It’s God’s version of PhotoShop.

Later the weather will turn cold and similarly merciless, just as football, too, turns into a battle for survival.