I'm talking about the most wonderful time of the sports yearÖfootball season.
There is just something special about early August when kids head back to school and the temperatures fall into the jacket zone.
For the avid football fan, a spark fires and the electric sounds of pep bands and popping pads signal the new season.
I'm not alone on this either. Football is quickly becoming the dominant sport in American culture. It's gradually separating itself from the rest of the mainstream sports and becoming the iconic game of America.
The gridiron has quickly replaced baseball as America's pasttime. Results from a nationwide Harris Interactive survey conducted online between Dec. 12 and 18, 2006, indicate that among 2,309 U.S. adults football was their favorite sport once again.
Since Harris Interactive began asking this question in 1985, professional football has always been on top and its popularity is now five points higher (from 24 percent to 29 percent). Compared to 1985's results, baseball has dropped nine percentage points (from 23 percent to 14 percent) in that same time.
According to a Gallup Poll conducted in January, the percentage of Americans who say football is their favorite sport to watch (43 percent) is higher now than at any other time. The previous high point was 38 percent in 1991 and 1992.
In recent years, before the increase this year, roughly one in three Americans has said football is their favorite sport.
But why is football so popular? Why has it grown leaps and bounds over baseball and other sports over the years?
In my assessment, it comes down to five reasons.
1. It's the main event.
Football is unique from other sports because there is only one game held each week. That makes for a shorter season with only a dozen or so games.
There are so many games in baseball (over 100) and basketball (nearly 100) that games can seem watered down and at times meaningless.
The football schedule is less saturated and that creates bigger games with crucial ramifications.
2. It's more fair.
Yep, it's true. Football seems to lead the pack in the area of fair play. They have the most comprehensive substance abuse rules and from what I can tell they actually enforce them.
Another way in which football excels in fairness is the officiating.
Most calls in football are black and white; there are few that rely on human interpretation with the exception of pass interference and maybe holding.
They also have instant replay to help out when the human eye is just not good enough. Baseball and basketball rely heavily on human skill for both strike zone and foul calls and, let's face it, calls are blown a lot and star treatment is given in nearly every game.
3. More people can participate.
It's no secret that football stadiums are known for being large and accommodating. The local high schools in the Beehive State probably average a 5,000-spectator seating capacity. High school stadiums in Texas are nearly triple that size.
Michigan Stadium is appropriately named the "big house" and can officially seat 107,501, which is five-and-a-half times the capacity of Energy Solutions Arena.
Football teams are bigger too, with most teams carrying 50 to 80 players on their rosters. There's a much better chance you can watch someone you know play football than in any other sport.
4. It translates great to TV.
The Super Bowl has virtually become an American holiday, and the reason is T.V. The game is great to watch on the tube.
Unlike baseball, television enhances the game instead of making it more tedious and boring to watch. Ask any baseball fan and they will tell you TV fails to capture the game accurately.
With myriad camera angles, floating cameras above the field, and expert analysis from all over the field, football makes for great home entertainment. And we can't forget the first-down line superimposed on the screenÖlove it.
5. Constant excitement.
The game is big. Football boasts a big field with big players and huge hits. There are long passes, long runs, and even longer kicks.
With 22 players scrambling around, popping pads and chasing an oblong ball, there is plenty to look at.
The scoring system keeps the tension in balance, too, unlike hockey, soccer and baseball, which score far too little and basketball, which scores far too much. The game rules allow for just enough points to keep things on edge.
So as the temperatures mellow out and the leaves start to turn, come celebrate the coming of a new season, the most wonderful seasonÖfootball season.