If you could freeze yourself and resume life after 100 years, you would ... well, for one thing you would miss your friends and your family -- or most of them, anyway.


That was only an attempt at a holiday joke.

Upon your return to normal respiration in late 2112 or early 2113, the curious questions would include this one: How much American football would remain? How many parents by then would have beheld the concussions and the maimed 40-year-old bodies and ordered their boys elsewhere, sports-wise? How many lawsuits might have emptied the landscape? If concussion awareness has prevailed through this NFL season and dramatically renovated the scene behind center in San Francisco to name just one place, how might it grip the next nascent century?

This bygone autumn, I went to Alabama, and I'm going to go out on a sturdy limb here and say American football will survive to 2113 in Alabama. It's just a hunch. For one thing, I attended my first-ever Friday night bonfire in Tuscaloosa and, after six years abroad, gained a fresh sense of football's entrenched residence in the Alabamian bloodstream.

Also this bygone autumn, I went to Texas.

I had always thought football humongous in Texas.

I had underestimated.

Then again, it's rare to run across someone who not only played football but who can describe it so vividly, rare to find anyone like a 24-year-old trainer named Micah, someone who in a Dallas gym taught me not only a new core workout but a new concept of football's embedding in the Texan soul.

It intrigued me, but did not startle me, when he said that as a tyke, the football close to home seemed so immense that he dreamed not of being a Dallas Cowboy but of playing for his high school team in Alvarado, 20 miles south of Fort Worth.

It intrigued me, but did not startle me, when he said that when Alvarado lost a state semifinal with his older brother at quarterback, the brother repaired to his bedroom for a weekend of crestfallen comprehension, while the whole five-child family knew to keep distance even through meals.

And it intrigued me, but did not startle me, when he said he and a former Alvarado teammate had gone to see Alvarado in a state championship game in 2011, and that one of those harsh losses that can nag a brain forever had come, and that when the 20-19 finish congealed with a late threat quashed by a late fumble by a noble sort playing in an arm cast, a strong 24-year-old man couldn't help but cry. And that after he left with his date -- their first date -- his buddy just sat there, staring, until the crowd emptied and the stadium darkened and the workers swept the stands.

What did jolt me into a fresh understanding of the depth of Texas football came in the kind of admission you seldom hear and never hear with such poignancy. It came from way down in Micah's sleep, from his pristine and then agonizing and then relentless dreams.

In these dreams, he laces shoes or dons pads to play, but he never seems to reach the field.

Let him describe, as he did later by email:

"My football-related dreams occur at least once a week and they are always pre-game time or pre-practice -- stretching, warming up, getting into my equipment. It's like my brain is teasing me. So cruel. I don't know exactly when they occur, but I always wake up remembering them.

"I would compare it to a first love passing away or leaving for whatever reason for forever. All you have is the memories and the thoughts of what could have been, wishing you could go back to maybe change an outcome or to be with that person one last time to feel what you felt then. But in reality you know that's all it will ever be. Just memories. That part of your life is over and done with and it's heartbreaking.

"You try to get your fix through watching and playing a pickup game here and there, but nothing will ever compare to that moment when football is life and life is football. I can't describe how much the game meant to me and how special it is when you're in that moment. It has made such an impact on my life that I have no choice but to carry it in my mind for the rest of my days."

And then: "The smells are things I will never forget. In fact, not too long ago I walked outside and it was perfect football weather (sunny day, cool breeze, not too hot but not too cold) and the smell of oncoming autumn was in the air. My mind went straight to old memories.

"The smell of the locker room was long-accrued sweat but with a hint of stored-away plastic. Like when you open an old container from the attic."

And then: "The feeling before games is crazy to try to explain in words. It's like a nerve-wracking sense of calm. Like your soul is at peace but your skin is crawling. I would like to think it's what the warriors of the past felt like right before they charged into battle. You see your enemy waiting upon the other side of the field and you know in your heart you are about to go to war. It's the most amazing feeling in the world. If they could market a drug to replicate it, everyone would be high."

Prediction: I think football will survive to 2113 in Texas.