Sometimes, because I'm a wacko, I stop on autumn Friday nights and think about all the football dramas playing out in the vast, vast land.
I think about some absurdly good running back probably streaming down a field in Florida and sure to be pure hell someday on Saturdays, about the Friday night lights I saw suddenly when I whipped around a corner once in Alabama, about a field tucked into the Kentucky mountains in Hyden where a marvel named Tim Couch once threw, about all that crazy talent in California, about the field I once saw on the Oregon coast where extra points would land on a supermarket rooftop and where osprey occasionally would fly overhead and drop eels.
I think of the time I drove through West Virginia listening to some school I never heard of take a playoff loss so galling and brutal -- after leading the whole time -- that I felt just completely bummed for these people I never saw. I think about Texas, and how I rued missing an overtime game in Dallas last fall that was played at "Cowboy Stadium," a high school edifice, but I figured that meant Cowboys Stadium, so I drove to the NFL venue only to find darkness.
Well, come on, football is kind of big there, so …
All the myopia, all the pressure within towns, all the coaches beloved by those in the seats and all the coaches less than beloved by those grumbling in the seats …
This May in America, though, I already have a game time logged in my phone calendar for September in America, and that's because on the Friday night of Sept. 6, I aim to think of a big tussle called the "Moore War," which involves Lions and Jaguars and a legacy of crowds that fill the stands and the hills around them.
It's Moore High School versus Westmoore High School in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, and it's a big deal to both even if it has diluted somewhat since 2008 after the birth of Southmoore High School, with all three schools at roughly 2,000 students.
Witnessing the "Moore War," of course, will be people who understand more than most of us about another kind of witnessing: of the approach of something so gigantic, so inexplicable that it can defy processing. On Monday, as we've all followed since, came a meteorological beast that was 1.3 miles wide and tore a path across 17 miles with winds over 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
And then, some have seen worse. On May 3, 1999, with the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado, came merely the strongest wind ever recorded upon the planet, 302 mph of viciousness that covered 38 miles in 85 minutes and caused 41 deaths.
That time, Westmoore High suffered severe damage, lost its roof, had windows blown out and more than 200 vehicles ravaged. That September, as many people in Moore thought about what many Oklahomans think about in September -- football -- maybe 18,000 went to the 12,000-seat Moore Stadium for the "Moore War." Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman noticed a windshield that read "Finish Blowing 'Em Away," an emblem of local toughness. Moore won 21-14, as it tended to do in those days.
When they played their 24th installment last Sept. 5, Westmoore's 62-14 win marked its 12th straight in the rivalry, including a classic in 2006 when the teams went to overtime, lightning caused a delay, Westmoore scored first, Moore scored second, Moore faked the extra point and the wet football slipped through the hands of a receiver open in the end zone.
You don't even have to know anybody involved to sigh over that.
When Westmoore won 22-20 in 2007 in the last installment of the two-school scenario as a Moore receiver couldn't reach a final heave and collapsed in end-zone despair, Westmoore coach Mike Whaley told his players, according to the Moore Monthly, "Be sure to enjoy this moment tonight. This moment will never come along again."
Multiply that kind of thing across the world's third-biggest country with the third-biggest population, and you have some kind of idea of what a Friday night can mean.
This Monday, the latest EF5 tornado chose a path near Southmoore High. As football coach Jeff Brickman told it to John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World, doors shook, athletes wore football helmets indoors for added safety and everyone sighed in relief that coaches already had sent spring practice indoors.
Already the metropolitan area had the nation's second-worst terrorist attack, over which Oklahoma City managed to show considerable heart in birthing one of the best memorial museums extant. Already that area has a vivid tornado history.
Yet as often as you hear people describe how such proximity to such force must feel, you know that you cannot grasp it simply by listening. You cannot imagine the exponential heartbreak today in Moore. You do know this, though: When the three schools play each other this fall, and when the "Moore War" happens on Sept. 6, the viewers will be durable sorts who know what it's like to lose every last single morsel of control.