MISSOULA — My mind drifts back to mid-July and the sight of 25 guys sweating it out on the football field at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
No one there to see except me. No one keeping stats on air-sucking sprints or lending historical perspective about heart.
Those are the guys I'm thinking about today after learning that the Big Sky Conference 2020 fall football season has been moved to the spring. I can't help feeling bad for Grizzlies that for so long have been pouring so much of themselves into preparing for a physically and mentally demanding autumn.
Big deal, you say? We've all endured hardship in one form or another during this coronavirus pandemic, right?
This is way different — at least athletically speaking. This isn't like losing a baseball or basketball or track season.
Unless you've prepared for an NCAA Division I college football season, you don't understand what's involved. You have no clue about that offensive tackle that's been constantly eating — at considerable out-of-pocket expense — just to keep his weight up. Or the intense week-after-week lifting required so that your body doesn't turn into a mushy black-and-blue mess once the hitting starts.
Football is not safe and never has been on the college or pro level. You have to learn to play with pain. It requires a warrior mentality and a willingness to prepare in ways that are both unusual and crucial to well being.
"I can't imagine putting in all that work and effort just to be told you're not going to play," said former offensive lineman Will Poehls, who endured six NFL training camps after a decorated career with the Griz. "It sucks because everybody loves this game and they pour their heart and soul into everything about it.
"I can't imagine the stuff going through people's heads right now. It would really, really suck to wait another year or whatever."
Spring football might be kind of fun to watch. But if only some of the FCS teams opt to play in the spring, it ends up being a half-baked season. Those that push hard to be the best like to be able to say they beat the best competition.
As Thursday afternoon wore on, Griz players began to express their disappointment via Twitter. At least one broken heart emoji was used.
Look on the bright side, some will say. They'll point to the fact that no Grizzly will lose out on eligibility and we could have real football in the spring.
That's small consolation when you're ready to play today.
Bill Speltz is Missoulian Sports Editor and has served as Sunday columnist the past 14 years. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I can't imagine putting in all that work and effort just to be told you're not going to play. It sucks because everybody loves this game and they pour their heart and soul into everything about it. I can't imagine the stuff going through people's heads right now."
Former Griz lineman Will Poehls
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