Hope abounds for everyone in the preseason

Published 11:21 am Thursday, August 9, 2012

There is a land of never-ending smiles. Where defeat is a meaningless abstraction and the only thing that stings is sweat in your eyes.

Where opportunities aren’t eternal, but occur twice-a-day on well-manicured practice fields. Ghostly voices from old team pictures, faded by time, call to passers-by in football buildings all over the state.

“Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” OK, that was a shameless rip-off of “Dead Poets Society.”

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Good sentiment, though. No standing on desks required.

Hope is everywhere, clinging to pre-practice huddles like a bearer of good tidings. Everyone sounds off with joy and longing for that shining moment at Veterans Stadium months from now when the state championship trophies are hoisted. The depth chart is not set in stone.

Weight-lifting sessions are work, but still leave a pleasant soreness that feels like a hard day of work.

Even the water out of the cooler tastes good.

Only the relentless, humid heat is the only downer, drawing sweat out of players and coaches alike.

Sounds like paradise? Or, like in “Field of Dreams,” Iowa?

No, it’s the preseason. Where everyone is undefeated and the length of the season hasn’t made every practice, every repetition, even every game, a mind-numbing chore.

Everyone is a contender at this point. No one sleeps in meetings or complains. Every drill is fun and a new challenge waiting to be unlocked.

Jerseys are new and shiny, smelling factory-fresh. Helmets aren’t scuffed and scratched with a season’s worth of collisions. Everyone’s cleats shine with a newness that seems to spring from hope.

But, a few weeks from now, hope for some will be replaced with despair. Injuries will rob teams of some of their best players. Practice will become a drudgery as the nights become cooler and the nagging injuries never seem to heal.

The tape on ankles and wrists become thicker as the season winds along.

A few teams will rise above the crowd and dominate each Friday night. More will struggle and fall away.

Close-run defeats will break hearts and send hope south for the winter.

“Wait ’til next year” will replace “it’s our year” in their minds and hearts.

The playoffs, through a brilliant process that separates the good from the great, will result in the crowning of a champion. One team that still feels the positive vibes of the preseason as the gear is put away at the end of the season.

But for now, those days are in the future. Practice days are counting down as the openers on Aug. 17 get closer.

Are you ready for some football? It’s about time.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at swilson@vicksburgpost.com.