The signs are all there. Recognizable colors paint a picture of unity and identity. One can hear songs that seem like old friends. The aroma of wonderful food cooked on a grill or prepared by seasoned hands outdoors permeates the air.
Football season is upon us.
Honestly, I love football. Watching games, going to games, breaking down games, covering games, broadcasting games, you name it — I truly enjoy the sport. I know it's easy for me to say; after all, sports journalism is my chosen profession. That said, look around you. Football is a huge part of our lives.
I plan my week around it, and I don't think I'm alone. How many of us look forward to a game, or just the weekend? Planning barbecues or game-watching parties when teams are on the road, or meeting friends to tailgate when the New Orleans Saints play at home.
During a grocery trip this past week, for example, my wife bought meats to grill for the Saints-Carolina Panthers game four days before kickoff. Perhaps I should be sad that my entire monthly calendar is built around finding out about NFL details, especially when April comes around. That's the month the NFL releases its regular season schedule. That's right, baby! Forget Siri. It's the NFL schedule that determines, pretty much to the day, what my life will be like from late July through at least January.
Seriously, I got married July 21. I knew Saints training camp began days later, so our honeymoon had to be scheduled during the Saints bye week.
I might be a little more extreme than other people. At my house, freshly laundered clothes get folded in between plays, and the washer and dryer get loaded during halftime or commercial breaks. Errands are run before or after kickoffs, and date nights with Mrs. Kattengell are on non-game nights only. "It is what it is," to quote suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton.
There are plenty of others just like me. According to the Nielsen Company, more than 200 million unique viewers watched the 2011 NFL season. NFL games were viewed by an average of 17.5 million people. The league's games accounted for 23 of the 25 most-watched TV shows among all programming, and 16 of those were the most-watched show on cable last season. The 20-million-viewer mark was reached a record 37 times during a regular season game.
We have had a front-row seat for experiencing how the sport of football has helped uplift the city of New Orleans. The weekend approaches and it is hard not to see the economic impact football has on the local economy. Small businesses like Fleurty Girl, Geaux for the Gold and the Black & Gold Sports Shop depend on team apparel flying off the shelves. Bars upgrade facilities by installing multiple televisions and depend on the six-and-a-half months of football to help them hit the numbers they need to be successful as well.
I haven't even touched on college football. In some parts of the country, like Baton Rouge, Saturday is really the only day of the week that matters.
Granted, football is a game; I understand that. The beauty of it is that for those three hours, when men face off and loyalty to your colors matter, we are all the same, just a group of people trying to not think of the bills, work, politics or any of life's other worries. Nope, we are just hoping the next pass gets completed, the third down gets converted, that our team has more points than its opponent at the end of the game, and planning where we all are meeting up next week.