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Early NFL games ruin August bliss


Of all the months of the year, during all my years, the month that's changed the most is August. Don't you think so? Once upon a time, August was just sort of a valuable nowhere time that got us safely, leisurely from the peak heat of the summer, in July, into the autumn of September, when everything would begin again.

Nothing much happened in August. There're no songs about August, no August-April romances. It's one of the few months without any sort of holiday, not even a Valentines or an Arbor Day. The President invariably would vacation in August, and so Congress would close up shop and we'd be blissfully news-less. In some countries, particularly France, everybody would go on vacation in August. There were only re-runs on television, so you didn't even have to watch anything.

If life is a game, August was a time-out.

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The only major August sports event is the PGA golf tournament, which was held last week in Minnesota. August was always the perfect time for the PGA, which is sort of a redundant Grand Slam, a Class B U.S. Open.

So August was a nice respite. We needed August. Well, maybe not all thirty-one days. I think you could have given one day of August to September and two to little February, but generally, August served a purpose by being nothing much at all.

Then things changed. First, everybody started going back to school before Labor Day. In August. Who'd ever heard of such a thing? Then everybody started saying "24/7." That put the pressure on August to stop being so lazy and catch up with all the other 24s and all the sevens. August just wasn't pulling its load. So they started television series in August. Mad Men has already begun again. Now you have to pay attention and remember what's happened. Not only that, but high schools and colleges started playing football in August.

Baseball is better suited for August. It's not so energetic and full bore. Besides, not only is football so downright aggressive, but there's a seasonal symbolism to football. Football means business. People always rhapsodize about how the beginning of baseball best symbolizes the spring of life, la-de-da. But football's symbolism is more substantive, because spring comes at different times in different parts of America, but buckling down after the summer comes all at once, all over. That's what football says: back to work, people. Back to school. No more lollygagging. Back to 24/7.

Now the NFL, watching August being carved up like Yugoslavia, is contemplating getting its share, too -- increase its schedule from 16 games to 18. That'll be the final straw: when the NFL storms into August. Then the August we knew and needed will be gone forever. August will just be a suburb of September, and, gee, I think we'll all be the poorer for it.