The end begins now.

I unapologetically sound like a wet blanket. High school scholastic sports, furthermore, triples the bittersweet experience because there are the somewhat cruel, finite finishes among fall, winter, and spring sports.

It happens, then it happens again, then it happens… again.

One team among each of the 20 IHSAA-sanctioned sports ends it season without tears. The rest of us will “…not go gentle into that good night” (thanks Dylan Thomas) but will still collectively take what feels like an all-too-soon bow and/or curtsy.

It’s time to collectively manage our fall sports season expectations. I’ve commented among multiple editions of the Weekender how important it is to embrace every iota of joy and pain experienced each season, especially for seniors.

Girls’ golf regionals are already in the books. Soccer sectionals begin in 1 ½ weeks, cross country postseason launches two weeks from this morning, and volleyball sectionals begin October 11.

Football sectionals for area teams won’t begin for 27 more days, but the beginning of the end is evident with Homecoming games followed by home games for Senior Night honorees. Among the occasions I know of, Warsaw and Triton had their Homecoming games last night, and Wawasee has theirs this coming Friday when the Tiger gridders visit.

This isn’t an issue solely for parents of senior athletes.

My son played a lot of junior varsity football during his sophomore and junior years before experiencing a great gridiron senior season, but the first thing I missed in the transition to his senior season was the cozy collection of Saturday morning fans in the stands - especially when we watched the JV gridders on the road.

The second thing I missed about JV games was a post-game hug and a few pics with my son while he punctuated each official completed half the seasons’ weeks of IHSAA high school football in hostile territory.

I wonder who needed the hugs more, Shawna and I or Parker?

The smaller JV audience was witness to some interesting on-field action you might not see on a Friday night, and some very innovative use of personnel by the coaches who entered each JV contest with the challenge of limited quarters available among some players.

I still vividly recall a JV game I announced around 2014 or 2015 where coach Marc Huffer had no available JV players among his Tiger quarterbacks. Huffer used two running backs taking snaps in a wildcat formation, and the results were a smashing success.

The aforementioned game is still among my all-time favorite Tiger football memories. I can’t recall the opponent, but I can recall how matter-of-factly the two running backs stepped in and succeeded.

I missed starting the Saturday morning frays in a hoodie, then shedding it late in the second half as I took in the Saturday sun… at least through September.

The Farmer’s Almanac – still the best prognosticator for winter weather - calls for a colder than usual winter, so enjoy this September weather. I believe we are going to see those colder than usual climes as  early as October, like what we saw last year.

From a non-athletic, aesthetic viewpoint my collective flora is telling me, “Time’s almost up.” It’s also a bittersweet time for me. I hate emptying the bulky pots, but I kind of like the pruning and cutting because I get to use cool tools to do it.

Event workers also experience a postmortem feeling each athletic season, but nothing quite like parents and their children on the gridiron, pitch, volleyball or tennis court, and cross country or golf course will experience.

All I can do is empathize looking back to my daughter missing her final select chorale performance due to a recurring locking jaw in May 2018, and my son’s last on-field hug with me after a November 15, 2019, loss to Merrillville in the IHSAA regional fray.

Whether you need ‘em in October, February, or May… “written-word hugs” from me to each of you as the cyclical beginning of the end starts surfacing everywhere.