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Our record was 0-11, but records can be deceiving. We really weren't that good.

― Lou Holtz

At the time of this newsprint's publication, there are approximately 28 days, 10 hours and 6 minutes until kickoff of the 2016 season of the National Football League. Or so I've heard.

My mama was an avid sports fan. When I was a kid, she would warm up our Zenith console television set, and I would turn the rotary-dialed antennae mounted on our roof until we could make out a snowy picture of some sporting event. This wasn't a difficult task given that the only channels we got were ABC and CBS, unless it rained. During a downpour, we could muster a faint image on NBC before flipping it back to the faithful two. Year-round, we watched professional bowling. Somehow ... that seemed more exciting back then than it sounds now. In spring and summer, Major League Baseball reigned supreme. It was a sport she loved and I tolerated. I never got over the strike of 1985. My mama generally skipped over golf tournaments, would occasionally land on auto racing or tennis and never let the channel fall on soccer. The announcers would call it football, and this irked her.

From 1986 onward, I shifted my fandom to American football. As August rolled around, we'd get antsy for back-to-school gear and football season. The smell of new pencils and pigskins made us giddy.

Now, knowing this, imagine how the next sentence makes me feel: Last week, I spent an evening with Lou Holtz.

Yes, that Lou Holtz. Former head coach of Notre Dame and others -- most notably, Arkansas from 1977 to 1983. Host of two radio shows, a fixture on ESPN and a member of the NCAA College Football Hall of Fame. That Lou Holtz!

For a few immensely pleasurable moments, my friends and I listened to Coach Holtz speak. The man has not aged a day in 30 years. This could be because he looked 80 years old when he was 50, but in any event, he looks exactly the same to me as he always has. His smile was radiant, his handshake solid and his hug gentle as we stood for a photograph. I had to suppress my jazz hands!

He spoke candidly about his time in Arkansas and how he was fired by Frank Broyles after church one Sunday without explanation. Having finished several good seasons with the Razorbacks, he was taken aback. Years later, when Notre Dame called, Broyles told them he relied on information that turned out not to be true and advised them to hire Holtz immediately. "How we react," Holtz said, "is more important than what happens to us."

My new Bentonville Tigers shirt hangs ready for me to molt from classy lady to rabid fan in less than 6 seconds. Fresh pencils line the store aisles. And I've hugged Lou Holtz. August can't get much better than that.

I'm not sure what's going to happen this season, but my reaction is bound to be loud and embarrassing all the same. Pro Bowlers Tour ... eat your heart out.

NAN Our Town on 08/11/2016

Print Headline: Pencils, pigskins

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