Outsider’s Perspective: The Real Season Begins

Posted: August 30, 2013

I had a friend growing up who used to always get really excited about sleeping over at other people’s houses.

Not because it meant staying up late watching movies, telling dirty jokes or getting into trouble with all of our buddies, but because of the food.

It’s not like he was malnourished or anything, but his mom refused to buy any name-brand groceries, a fact he complained about constantly.

So while a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Fruit Loops wasn’t anything to get excited about for the rest of us, it was practically a second Christmas for the kid who only knew the generic bags of Cinnamon Toasters and Fruitti Rings throughout his childhood.

To hear him tell it, the flavor and makeup weren’t all that dissimilar — in fact some of the off-brand stuff was almost identical to the original — but you just knew something was missing, especially after having the real thing.

I never fully grasped that concept until now.

Through family connections, friends and sheer luck, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a handful of NFL games over the years, but never a preseason game.

That all changed Saturday when, thanks to some good fortune, I got my hands on tickets to the Washington Redskins vs. Buffalo Bills game.

I’d been to a few Redskins regular season games before and, even though I bleed 49ers’ scarlet and gold, I could appreciate the game day atmosphere and venue that FedEx Field provides.

Good fans, nice amenities, and anywhere you can hang out with guys dressed in monk robes with the Redskins’ logo embroidered on the back is a fun place to be in my book.

So even though it was only going to be a preseason game that would feature more backups than starters Saturday, I figured it was still an NFL game at an NFL stadium.

How different could it possibly be from the regular season games they’d be playing in just two weeks time?

I may as well have asked my friend if there was much difference between Heinz and the bottle of ketchup his mom used to buy with the smiling tomato on it.

They’re technically both made up of the roughly the same ingredients and they may taste similar, but one is the ketchup we all know and love, and the other ... well, it’s just not.

From the pregame festivities to the noise level in the stands to the play on the field, preseason games may have the look and feel of their regular season counterparts, but you just know something is missing (and I’m not just referring to the fact that RG3 was on the sidelines while Rex Grossman was on the field).

The same thing can be said about the fall high school sports season.

Technically we kicked off the 2013 season when the Sherando and Handley golf teams traveled to play in the Spotswood Invitational back on Aug. 7, and since then we’ve had golf tournaments, volleyball matches and even a cross country dual take place.

But something has been missing — until now.

When the Sherando, James Wood, Millbrook and Clarke County football teams take the field tonight, and the Handley football team on Saturday, the sports season will go from that strangely colored can of Big Fizz Cola to the classic red of Coke.

Both may belong to the soda family, but one is the ugly stepchild of the bunch, while the other is the patriarch.

Up to this point we’ve had most of the ingredients for the fall sports season, but tonight we get the full experience.

Now we get to go from cross country meets on Wednesdays and volleyball matches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with golf duals scattered throughout, to Friday nights of football under the lights.

Tonight marks the end of the preseason and the start of the real season.

— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star