Seems like we’ve been here before, July giving way to August, unrelenting temperatures, plenty of the R-word and players all over the country donning new and still relatively fresh-and-clean football gear.
And barring another nasty mood swing from Mother Nature, the start of football practice logically means it won’t be long now before toe meets leather for real and the 2017 football season gets rolling.
It might be cliché to categorize the start of the football season as renewal, but for anybody on this side of the words, that is exactly what a new season represents because it hits the reset button on a school year and – for the most part – stokes the flame for sports writers as much as it does players and fans.
That’s something I learned more intensely 20 years ago in my first season covering prep football in West Texas and it’s a phenomenon that has only gained steam every August since then. Last year was a perfect representation of how important football is and needs to be in communities when the five Livingston Parish football teams played such a vital role in helping folks pick themselves up, dust themselves off and charge forward after so much devastation and heartache.
As a kid who grew up in Kansas, my two sports loves were basketball and baseball, and those two won’t ever lose those top two spots in my sports heart.
Because I was a kid, I played football of course, and was pretty good at it. To see me now, it’s hard to imagine (thanks to age, gravity and that mix of hops and barley from ages 21-30), but I was a quarterback in my early football days until I kept bulking up and my coaches shifted me to linebacker and tight end.
Country strong, ran a 4.6 (yes, really), pretty good set of hands and was a grinder when it came to hard work because I just didn’t have the kind of athleticism that so many of my friends and teammates had.
In Kansas, though, strange as it may sound, football was more of a time-filler from the end of baseball season to the start of basketball, and I prioritized it along those lines. I did always live for Sundays, though, first as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan in the 1970s and then a Kansas City Chiefs diehard when they finally turned the corner and became relevant again in the NFL.
Something happened when I got to Texas, though. Something that changed me, though it finishes a distant second to meeting the future Mrs. Rosetta when I started working for The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, but something impactful nonetheless.
That something was high school football getting into my blood and stirring up a sports passion unlike anything I had experienced in a while.
A huge part of my love of writing and sports journalism has always been finding the stories to tell – getting to know the people behind those stories. In West Texas, I got a chance to spread my writer’s wings a little more to dig up those stories and my canvas was Friday nights in really cool places where football was so powerfully meaningful to so many people.
Six years in Lubbock and one more in Midland where I covered one of the teams made famous in the factual ‘Friday Night Lights’ (Midland Lee) set the foundation. I wound up in South Louisiana in 2004 and jumped right into big-time college football covering LSU.
Last fall was a chance to get back to my roots, and despite the life-changing Great Flood of 2016 – and maybe in part because of it – I had a blast.
I had free-lanced some games for Mike Dowty and the David clan in years past, but last fall was my first trip around the block getting to know football folks up close and personal in Livingston Parish. Getting to know the people who are the heart-and-soul of all those great stories.
The complexion of things changed, of course, with Dru Nettles and Brandon Lawley exiting, with Bill Conides and Lester Ricard taking over at Denham Springs High and Walker, respectively.
Call me crazy, but neither new coach is walking into a rebuild situation.
Yes, the Yellow Jackets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but there is always loads of talent in the DSHS locker room, and keep in mind that nobody gave both Zachary and Scotlandville fits in District 4-5A like Denham did last fall.
At Walker, Ricard found a cupboard that needed some replenishing, but most folks will tell you that the Wildcats’ talent pool in all boys’ sports is as deep as it has been in a generation.
As promising as things are for the Yellow Jackets and Wildcats, they are both are chasing Live Oak right now. The Eagles have beaten both of their parish rivals the last two years and the only parish team that has gotten to the playoffs consecutively right now.
Watching Brett Beard’s teams the last two seasons give me every reason to believe that Live Oak will keep getting better, regardless of who the players are because the fundamentals are well-established and now a winning mindset has been instilled.
The parish’s two smaller programs enter a season with fascinating storylines: Can Albany sustain the breakthrough success it exploded onto the scene with last year? Can Springfield rekindle its tradition and get things headed back in a positive direction?
So many things to write about, and plenty of time to start writing.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, yeah, I am eager to get this season started and see where the five parish teams are headed.
Something to note, and hopefully this is something that has been clear from the day I took over as sports editor nearly 18 months ago: I have no favorites. I don’t root for one team over the other. In fact, unless it’s my Kansas Jayhawks, North Carolina Tar Heels, Kansas City Royals, Boston Red Sox or the two aforementioned NFL teams, you won’t read or hear me rooting for teams.
What I do pull for are people and finding their stories and doing my best to tell those stories. And we’re about to get thick into storytelling season, so buckle up.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
Follow on Twitter: @RandyRosetta | @LPN_Sports | @LPNews1898