Being on the gridiron acts as a balm for the soul.
Football feels the same.
I was worried it would not. I was worried that the masks, which are now mandatory for fans, would muffle the roar coming from the bleachers.
It turns out I could still hear the Braden River fans from far away, even at an away game in Punta Gorda. I was worried the prolonged offseason would lead to rust and poor play. The Pirates might have lost to Charlotte High 35-21 in their debut Sept. 18, but it was not because of rust. They scored on their first possession.
Football was something we all needed.
Being back on the sidelines felt like putting on my favorite sweatshirt when the temperature finally drops low enough to allow it. It just fits right.
I love all sports, but there's nothing like Friday nights on the gridiron. Nothing, for me, matches the sound of a bone-rattling crunch on a hard tackle. Nothing matches the excitement of watching a player like —sorry, Pirates fans — Charlotte senior quarterback John Busha for the first time, a player previously unknown to me who has now burst onto my radar in a massive way after accounting for 331 total yards and five touchdowns.
Nothing matches the way fans can pump up their players.
"Let him know you're better than him," a voice shouted at Braden River senior wideout Josh Thomas, urging him to get the best of the Charlotte defensive back in front of him.
Thomas had a solid game, hauling in two long completions from senior quarterback Shawqi Itraish. Ultimately, I'm glad people get to worry about trivial stuff like trash talk and losing a football game again.
OK, the experience wasn't totally the same as always. The constant reminders for people to wear their masks made sure of that, as did the emptier-than-usual stadium. But it was as close as we're going to get for a while.
I wasn't sure football and other close-contact sports would work this soon. There was a reason the Florida High School Athletic Association's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee voted unanimously against playing football and volleyball in the fall.
But there's also growing evidence that the risk involved isn't much greater than any other sport. A Sept. 8 report from FootballScoop shows that through 1,000 high school games played nationwide, there have been zero community outbreaks tied to the games. At the time of the report, it was too soon for Florida to be included in that data, but some of the states included such as Indiana, Alabama and Utah have been playing since Aug. 20 or earlier. It's a good sign that those states have remained clear.
It doesn't mean the threat is gone, or that we can become more lax on restrictions. It means the ones currently in place are working. For now, that's good enough. Ultimately, no one will know for a while whether it is the right call.
But as long as they're playing it, I'll be on the sidelines covering it.
And that, I can definitively say, is a great thing.
Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.