Lombardi: Exciting time of year

Start of training camp ignites football everywhere, and questions begin to get answered

The Green Bay Packers open training camp in less than one week. It seems like it was years ago that the season ended in disgrace with the playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. I know that the players would disagree with me, but I wish the season never ended. I live for anything football and in this town that means Packers.

As much as I pull for the home team, I just love football. Be it high school, college or the pros. I love the pageantry and the atmosphere. I worship the hot summer months as these world class athletes return to college dorm rooms to start all over again. I love the feeling of cool crisp fall days as the dew rises off the grass and tailgaters set up their barbeque pits and grills and greet their fellow fans with hoots and howls. I love the cold of the season as it progresses. I revel in the macho nature of standing outside all day in single digit weather.

The nice thing about football is that each and every team and each and every stadium has its own traditions and personality. Fans would be hard pressed to be disappointed with a visit to any NFL stadium. Most colleges have a distinct experience also. From the Gator Clap in Gainesville to the bottle throwers in LSU to the marshmallows Michigan fans have been know to throw, college football tradition is as varied as can be imagined.

Whether it is the Dawg Pound in Cleveland, where fans have been known to pack pennies and batteries in snowballs or those psycho fans in Oakland, the beauty of football is in the intensity of each contest and each play. From the Little Brown Jug to the various axes, beer barrels and only God knows what these universities play over, college is equally intense. Each level has its own attraction. College has the bands and the feeling of innocence. The professional level is as high as it gets. These are the best at what they do.

Friday brings the high school games and if you have not gone to a prep game lately, do so. Saturday brings the college games and Sunday and Monday are left to the pros. In fact, you can almost watch a college game every day of the week.

The anticipation of this week is so thick; I have trouble concentrating at work. I see the signs all over town. I can sense it. The hospitality industry is gearing up for the season. The networks are getting ready. The websites are overwhelmed with predictions and news on teams and players. The railbirds are ready.

Part of the reason that this time of year is so exciting is that there are so many questions about the upcoming season. Take the NFC North for instance. Can the Packers win the Division again? Will the Vikings finally break out or is Mike Tice the worst coach in the NFL? Will they miss Randy Moss, or be better without him? Will Harrington or Garcia quarterback the Lions and can anyone stop their trio of first round wideouts? Is Rex Grossman healthy and can the Bears compete?

Questions abound. Stay tuned. I hope to try and guess at some of them in the next couple weeks.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.

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