Sports Of All Sorts………..July And Football In Texas….By RC

Ahhh, July in Texas! For many years July in Texas meant anticipation, dread, and excitement all wrapped in one package. When I was a kid, I thought about football from the time school turned out for the summer until August when we reported for two-a-day workouts.
The anticipation was born when that last bell rang and we all headed home for the summer. It would build as the summer months wore on. I knew all the kids on all the other teams and who was returning and how many. I would make comparisons in my head as to who we had coming back and how we would stack up against them. Sometimes those were good thoughts and sometimes they weren’t.
I knew that I dreaded two-a-day practices. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad had I not had to get up and change a string of about 100 irrigation pipes, feed and water the hogs, and then milk a couple of cows before heading into town to be welcomed by two hours of blood, sweat, and tears. After that I headed home to a hoe handle and a weedy cotton patch. That afternoon brought the same routine! And in those days no one started to school until after Labor Day. So that usually meant about three or four weeks of hard work interrupted only by hard work for nearly a month.
The excitement came by being around my buddies who I would only see on Saturday night at the drive-in theatre. It was great to see them and it was really exciting to see how much they had grown and hopefully had improved themselves enough to make us a little better than what I might have anticipated. Plus it was always so great to get suited up and ready to play games.
So how does July figure in then and now? For one thing since the summer of 1960 the greatest football publication anywhere arrived on the newsstands everywhere. It was called Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine. I’m pretty sure that in the early years that magazine did not arrive until after the first of July. Or maybe I just didn’t get to a newsstand before that. Either way it was usually July when I got to read mine from cover to cover and learn every school and every name and what was predicted for them in the upcoming season. And now I usually wait until July to pick up my copy. For any football player or fan in Texas: if that doesn’t get your blood to pumping a little faster then nothing can.
In July the pro football training camps begin and with two franchises in Texas there is plenty to hear about on the tube plus read about in the newspaper, or on the computer. There is so much information available through so many sources that it is mind-boggling. That doesn’t matter, I still try to read and hear them all.
The buzz about the collegiate season is all over the media outlets as well. Of course most everyone has a favorite team and if that team is predicted to challenge for a championship of any kind the student body and alumni everywhere just get silly about what might be. Just think with Johnny Manziel returning to lead Texas A&M you can only imagine the frenzy on the rise in Aggie Nation.
At the high school level in mid-July coaches everywhere begin arriving at the coach’s offices to start dreaming, scheming, and plotting for the season ahead. No matter what the prediction for their team, they know that in mid-July everyone is still undefeated. Optimism runs rampant! Also coaches are like kids arriving because they may not have seen one of their coaching buddies for a month or so and they have so much catching up to do. Coaching is such a brotherhood and so it is nice to see the family again.
It just seems natural for coaches everywhere to show up and want to change things around just a little. That usually means a new coat of paint on anything that will hold a coat of paint. And of course it is always in school colors. So the smell of paint, the smell of new lumber, the smell of new equipment in a dressing room or coaching office is just another one of those July reminders that the season is just around the corner.
Newly cut grass has a smell of its on as well. Getting the fields prepared for those two-a-day practices and the game field ready to shine under those Friday night lights usually takes place in month 7. That cut grass smell though is something special.
Coaches at all levels may act like they dread the thought of putting together those depth charts but, trust me, they love that part of the scheming that involves getting the right player in the right position and then deciding if the depth will carry them through an entire season without injuries or grades derailing a prospective season.
On television we get to have a nightly update of the professionals at training camp. Those players come around those sportscasters and look like they haven’t worked out at all. Of course those guys because of the salaries and off-season demands come in pretty much in top shape. They are dressed really casual and look like they are on vacation which I can assure you is not the case. They too speak so optimistically about the season ahead.
And then the college guys start hosting those media days where pictures are taken and comments of hope and belief surface like cork on a fishing line. Coaches do not dare speak a negative word and fans everywhere get to hear exactly what they are hoping to hear.
We as fans get just as pumped thinking that soon our Friday nights will be filled with the best high school game in the nation. And then on Saturday with plenty of stations ready to broadcast, just about every fan gets to see their favorite team in action. If not they get to see two of the best in the nation square off in hopes of climbing the ratings ladder.
Of course we know what Sunday means! And sometimes the pro games begin on Thursday and do not end until the following Monday. So football at the NFL level is there in mass to feed that football hunger that has every football loving fan in Texas on the edge of their seat.
I will not sit here and say that Texans are not pretty sports crazy no matter the season but don’t ever let anyone tell you that football is not the king. So many people voiced their disapproval when Josh Hamilton spoke those parting words that stung pretty good when he said that Arlington or the metroplex in general was not a baseball town. But Josh saw all the sportscasts and he played right next door to Cowboy stadium. He knew that the Rangers had created a love of baseball like never before in Texas but even at their best, the Rangers could not escape sharing equal time or less with the Cowboys and it all began in July.
That is just who we are. July is when it begins and it won’t end until the Cowboys are eliminated or when one of the Division I college teams plays for a nation championship, whichever comes first. And people will show up in droves at Cowboy Stadium to watch the Texas high state championships the week before Christmas.
It is July in Texas and you can smell the cut grass, you can see the coaches back on campus, you can see athletes hitting the weights a little harder, and you can smell the paint. That’s the way it was, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s probably gonna’ stay here in Texas where football lives like in no other place.
Happy July! RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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