WHEELING - Welcome, my fellow lunatics, to the show that never ends: Ohio Valley high school football season.
While that statement may not be exactly true, all you have to do is ask an area coach or player how soon preparation for the next season begins, following the end of the current one. Most will take a week or two off, then it's back in the weight room for nearly a full calendar year.
Man, it feels good to be back, because it's not a surprise to anyone who reads this column, even on a semi-regular basis, that this is the season I crave. It's money time, for you youngsters out there.
Today is one of, if not my favorite day of the season, as our annual preview, which if you can believe it just turned 47 years old, becomes available for public consumption. Putting that sucker together is no doubt a labor of love, but a labor nonetheless.
There are four games on the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference schedule tonight - Cleveland JFK at Steubenville, Buckeye Trail at Harrison Central, Toronto at Wellsville and Ripley visits Parkersburg South. A night later, 24 games are on tap, and the Week 1 prep card concludes with four more Saturday.
I don't know about you, but my seat won't get much use for the next 14 weeks. I mean, pumped doesn't even begin to describe the feeling around our downtown Wheeling office right now.
Hey, we like basketball, baseball, softball and all the rest of the sports, too. Football though, gets the blood boiling like nothing else.
Speaking only from a personal perspective, the difference between football and other sports is community involvement. Every sport at every school is supported well, but the guys in helmets and pads have an uncanny ability to bring out the best in the local neighborhoods. Everywhere we go, people always want to know if we have any clue how their favorite football team is going to fare in the upcoming season.
My wife might disagree - she jokingly (I think?) refers to me as her fourth child - but I like to believe I get a little more mature each year, with a week from Friday being my 37th straight chance to do so. I say this because things like family and community mean more to me every time I turn around, and I don't think high school football gradually becoming more important to me is a coincidence. When we hang out at any of our friends' in our Moundsville neighborhood during the summer, the question I always get is: what's John Marshall looking like?
The phones have been ringing off the hook in the office the last couple weeks, nearly all of the folks on the other end wondering when the preview debuts. For future reference it's always opening night.
Do yourself a favor and try to get out to a stadium or two each week, because this game is every bit as important to the kids on the field as it is the people in the stands. Each time they pull that jersey over their heads it's not just for themselves or their teammates or coaches. They do it for you, too.
Let's have some fun.
Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org