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FAN OF THE HOUSE

October as open season on fun

The World Series arrives, football and youth soccer are in swing, basketball and hockey return -- it's a month when legends are made.

October 08, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE | Erskine also writes "Man of the House" in Saturday's Home section.

What a month, October . . . in like a lamb, out like a Detroit Lion (same thing?). It is gleeful, resonant and far too short. In fact, October should be 60 days. Because October doesn't just arrive, like most months. October jumps out of a cake.

In October, basketball and hockey are back. The interminable baseball season ends with a big bang, not a whimper. A home run in October is worth 20 in July. A home run in October is like a Roman candle. It smells of gunpowder.

October is "Whoa, Nellie!" October is "Holy Cow!"

Can you imagine America without October? You may as well shelve the Constitution. You may as well take away TV.

Nope, America just wouldn't be the same without October. You may as well take away all our clothes (No, Mr. Letterman, I wasn't talking specifically to you).

October is all the little things we like lumped together. It's bratwurst in Sheboygan, it's caramel apples in South Bend. October is jumping out of your seat a little with every ninth-inning pitch -- as if you're the batter. As if you're seeing every stitch.

October is everything we like about our favorite games and more.

October is bunting in the ball yard. It's Jack Whitaker in a trench coat. It's Gibby going long.

October is plaid blankets in the bleachers and silver flasks on your hip. It's youth soccer on Saturday morning when the grass is still soup. Wet socks. Doughnuts, coffee black.

October is sunscreen and sweatshirts. October is candy corn and Tennessee.

In early October, there are certain things you can always count on. Coaching controversies at Notre Dame. Arrests in Tallahassee. Wondering where Milton Bradley will work next spring.

October is mostly good times, though. It's Slippery Rock edging Mercyhurst. It's Colgate crushing Cornell. It's first flurries in Buffalo. It's Hail Marys in Duluth.

October is comfort food -- our winter insulation -- chili, chicken wings and burgers the size of hubcaps (remember hubcaps?).

October is black greasepaint smeary on the fullback's face, a little chunk of sod in the corner of his face guard.

It is school buses, jammed with high school players, headed up the coast for a Friday night game. October is a young quarterback rubbing his hands together like firewood before a key third down.

To me, autumn is the payoff for surviving late summer, when the steering wheel feels like fire and you fear your eyeballs might explode. I once spent a couple of autumns in Miami. I would crank the AC way up and pretend it was Ann Arbor.

No, that didn't work one bit.

Because when properly done, fall is a brisk slap in the face. It's a bike ride on a blustery day. It's losing your tee shot in the maple leaves on a perfect par three.

October is probably our most American month. Tradition rules. Empires clash. Legends are made. Indeed, it's the month Mickey Mantle was born.

October is made of memories. It's frosty breath in Fenway. It's earmuffs in the Bronx.

On TV, October is Ditka and Bradshaw and ever-increasing numbers of studio commentators. One fall morning, I'm sure to turn on the tube to find more jocks in the broadcast crew than on the football field. That's what fall does, I suppose: It rallies us in record numbers; it clusters us against the cold.

In October, there are no empty seats.

And on the very best days -- cool ones with minty breezes from the north -- October is huddling with your date while the late afternoon sky turns purple as a bruise. It's a line of geese on the horizon -- a flying wedge. V for victory. V for good vermouth.

October is smelling salts and concussions, harvest moons and tractors in the field till midnight. Fall is a race against winter. Winter usually wins (but take autumn and the points).

One other thing I've started to realize about October: You only get so many of them -- like Christmases, birthdays, or second-half timeouts.

Yep, every October is a classic.

Whoa, Nellie, October is back.

--

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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