“Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,

“Why you never see bright colors on my back,

“And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.

“Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on . . .”

***

It is Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting here looking at a calendar on the wall.

Feb. 10, 2018 . . .

February . . .

As I read “February” for about the fifth time, those lines from an old Johnny Cash song keeps running through my mind. In a moment of contemplative inspiration, two thoughts come to mind:

1. If I could write as well as those old country song writers, I’d have at least a half-dozen Pulitzer’s  and a couple of Nobel’s hanging on the wall instead of a calendar that says it is Feb. 10, 2018.

2. February is the blackest of all months. I don’t own a black suit, but if you see me with a black arm band you’ll know grief is my companion.

Other than still being among the living, there just isn’t much good you can say about February. A case in point is it is the shortest of all months, 28 days for three years and then 29 days the fourth year.

Now, for all the reasons why . . .

At the top, in a class all by itself, February is the first of six months ‘til the next college football game. Think about that . . . no Crimson Tide to hate, no Nick Saban who refuses to tell you his starting quarterback next fall. No Auburn Tigers to wonder about “how good,” no Gus Malzahn to second guess.

The story behind all that is I spent the first 19 years of my journalistic career as a sports writer for this newspaper.

I followed the Tide to California, Auburn to Waco, Tex.

I was on more airplanes than Jimmy Doolittle, slept in more strange motels than Jimmy Swaggart, and finished out a working night in more motel bars (with other writers) than Merle Haggard.

There was Augusta and The Masters, the U. S. Open and Jerry Pate. There was high school football back when everybody played everybody around here. Somewhere called Bogalusa was never mentioned. It was a time of good ball and passionate dislike.

And there was the Daytona 500 and Talladega Speedway back when a car looked like a Ford or Chevy or Dodge and the drivers had greasy faces and a tendency to knock the other guy into the wall. They still do that, but all the cars look birthed in a wind tunnel and the drivers don’t even have grease on their hands, let alone their faces.

But I wander afar from the beginning . . .

February 10, 2018, and the wearing of a black arm band.

All those years in the toy shop are in the rear view mirror and other than college football, I just don’t care. Oh, I still watch some golf . . . the four majors, the TPC, and Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial. I did watch the Super Bowl this year . . . and it was a darn fine game.

But it’s the college game that holds me from September into January, it is the absence of the college game that leaves me feeling lower than a snake’s belly from February through August.

Down here college football can turn a nun into a dizzy cheerleader, can make a church deacon take up cussing. It’s not a religion, but it is a faith.

It is also war without dying and the last place on this good earth where we can still “whup them damn Yankees.”

Don’t laugh about that. Go stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself. The mirror is one of two places you can’t lie. The other is to God.

Oh, I think I should also tell you that I spend a lot of nights “across the hall.” The blonde has this thing about sleeping with itchy arm bands, black . . . or crimson or orange.

And I sure hope the preacher doesn’t ask me to roll up my sleeve this morning . . .

---

George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or email: gsmith731@gmail.com

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