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The time of year when your eyes play nothing but tricks on you

USA - Travel - U.S. Route 66, the Mother Road Photo by Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

You’ve seen them before, these mirages. Out away from the Super Targets and Paneras, beyond the masses of boxy throwaway homes spilled out upon the strip-mined hillsides. Out where there’s enough space and light and straight highway running out into the horizon. You see a viscous black liquid pooling in the low points in the roadway through the shimmer of heat. It gathers and spills to adjacent hollows like mercury. It grows and dissipates like a breathing organism. Then it’s gone. You feel vindicated, because you knew it was just your eyes and the heat and distance playing tricks on you. But you had just started to wonder about it in spite of yourself. Then you see another one in the distance. It’s a cycle of uncertainty; a faint hope of something your logical brain tells you is impossible. But it’s that hope that brings us back to that eternal stretch of highway and keeps our eyes peeled into the distance, waiting for that puddle that never dries up.

This is the week where we finally capture that mirage. We hold it in our hands, delicate as a tiny bird, before it’s whisked away and the next mirage appears in the distance. In the autumn, as the sun slowly releases its stranglehold, we face the truth of the mirage each week before winter digs in. Often the truth is as harsh and unforgiving as the desert. And sometimes it is just as wild and beautiful. Those are the moments we keep coming back for.

College football began in earnest two days ago. Florida-Miami played a mistake-riddled game in a shitty neutral stadium in Orlando that made it look like they were battling each other in swarms of mosquitoes or an invisible monsoon. In the end, a ranked Florida team barely held on against their unranked, in-state rival Miami, 24-20. And it was pure college football joy.

This was not good enough for some people.

Please note on the time stamp that Pat Forde labored well into the night to get this contrarian pile of shit pushed out to the thirsty masses well after 1 a.m. Eastern time. He devoted hours to this immediately following the end of Miami-Florida, during which time Hawaii and Arizona were playing a full-bore PAC-12 After Dark game out in Honolulu that saw massive momentum swings, touchdown bombs, droves of turnovers, a benched QB, and ultimately a dynamic comeback effort that died as time expired one single yard short of sending the whole damn thing into overtime at 2:30 a.m. Eastern. But Pat missed it, because he was busy frantically attempting to meet the demand for GRUMPY TAKES from those who apparently feel that college football should be an exact replica of the NFL: soulless, predictable, bland football where emotion is frowned upon by legions of tough men in replica jerseys and goatees.

No, thank you. Chill the fuck out and have some fun, Pat and co. That’s what football was made for. My pal Chuck has put this as succinctly as possible. When you know, you know:

Football was literally invented for no other reason than for kids to have a good time playing it. Whether or not your own experience has led you into some extravagant set of expectations is on you, not on the sport.

Nobody knows what is around the next bend, or how large and promising that next mirage might be. Even Alabama manages to dicktrip against someone like Ole Miss every few years or so. If you’re dead-set on a safe road, then you’d better not venture out into the desert with college football fans. Stay back in suburbia. Get some ribs at Applebee’s and argue about NFL players being soft over your pints of Bud Light. The rest of us are just cranking down the windows in our big convertible, ready for a few months of hallucinations. You’re welcome to join us, but if you keep bitching about the trip, we’re eventually going to leave your ass on the roadside. That imaginary ideal of a perfect game that you desperately dream of does not exist. Only chaos and beauty and wild swings to the extremes. Welcome to the desert.

Welcome to week one.