The time of year my boyfriend has been talking about since it ended is finally here. Lord, bless him. I’ve been hearing an exact countdown for months; we’re talking hours, minutes, seconds.

High school and college football have been underway for a few weeks and NFL officially kicked off last Thursday night. 

Football means a few things to me, and none of the reasons has much to do with the actual ballgame. 

I’m not your typical football fan. I admit it; I’m that basic girl who hardly understands what’s happening on the field.

But I do love football because of what it brings to my life.

It’s always translated to family time to me. I think about watching my dad fuss at the television while Mama and I sit and talk about everything but the game. I picture eating Mama’s home-cooked supper in the living room and, most of all, good memories.

Since I’ve been dating Ryne — who recently started writing about the NFL for The Outlook sports page — I’ve spent even more time in front of a TV watching a football game and making memories. 

He’s a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan and has loved them since he was a child. While he was growing up in Las Vegas, the Eagles were popular at the time and one of the only televised NFL games. He’s been a fan ever since. 

It was special to watch his face as the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018 — their first Super Bowl and first NFL title since 1960.

All his years of being a faithful, diehard fan became worth it. 

The Eagles played the Washington Redskins on Sunday and I was well prepared ahead of time prepared for cheering, screaming, jumping, dancing and maybe crying from my dearest boyfriend. 

Bless his heart.

I’ve never understood how one can be so invested in football; it’s just a game, after all. But it’s something I can now appreciate a little more.

Ryne’s always so excited to tell me about the latest NFL news and, although I couldn’t care less and don’t really understand what most of it means, I’m just happy I’m the person he wants to tell. 

When I started working at TPI in 2017, football gained a whole new meaning.

I had no idea when I was hired I’d be working Friday nights during football season until 2 a.m. but boy when August 2017 came around was I in for an awakening.

We put together a 16- to 24-page section every Friday night called Sports Extra. It’s the biggest high school football edition in Alabama and we produce every bit of it right here at TPI. 

We have a small staff but sports editor Lizi Arbogast works hard to ensure every game we can possibly be at is covered. We have a great team of freelancers and a news team willing to get out of its comfort zone and cover high school football. 

Then there’s me.

I told Lizi my first year I had no idea how to cover high school football because I have no idea how the game even works. So my duty was editing photos and stories as needed and designing most of the section each Friday. 

This year I hit the field for the first time — don’t worry, I still don’t understand football — to take photos. 

My goal was simply to take a photo of “guy in helmet holding ball.” That’s a “Gilmore Girls” reference few will understand other than Lizi, who is the show’s biggest fan.  

I’ve been to two games now and I’m getting better but unfortunately — when you don’t know what’s happening on the field and are simply trying not to get run over — it can be a bit hard. 

It gave me even more respect for my sports editor Lizi and everyone else in the profession. Props to all you sports reporters and photographers out there.

Friday nights are a lot of work. Stories and photos have to be done by 11:15 p.m. then the section has to be put together by 12:30 a.m. then our pressmen have to print it, our mailroom staff has to insert it into the newspaper then it has to get to the post office then out to your mailboxes. It’s a fast-paced, hectic, crazy night every single week until football season ends. But I’ve grown to love it more and more every year I’m at TPI.

My coworkers have become my family. We’ve been through a lot together and we spend 40-plus hours together each week. Fridays have become another way for me to make family memories. We put in so much effort as a team and produce an outstanding product each week. 

When outsiders see the effort we put in on Friday nights, they’re always blown away. I’m a humble gal, but dang we do a killer job.

While I may not be your typical football fan, I’m a fan of family and making special memories. I have a lot of reasons to love the game of football and am looking forward to yet another season.

Santana Wood is the interim managing editor of The Outlook.