Nothing we know of unites Ohio Valley residents - and sometimes divides them in a friendly way - like high school and college football season.
Long before "Friday night lights" became a common term, local residents looked forward to evenings in the late summer and fall when the lights would go on at football fields and stadiums throughout the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio.
Nothing quite matches a Friday night or Saturday afternoon watching young men match muscles, moves and mental maturity on a grassy field, whether the surface is natural or artificial. At the high school level, some of the players may be neighbors, sons of friends or family members. Many of the names are familiar ones in our communities.
More than mere sideshows are the cheerleaders, mascots and marching bands - often entertaining and impressive enough themselves to draw crowds.
And, of course, what high school football game would be complete without second-guessing the coaches or, more commonly, the officials?
Every game is special to local fans, many of whom graduated from the high schools for which they love to cheer. But traditional rivalries - and every team has them - take the excitement to a higher level.
College football may not seem as personal, but in some ways, it gets the adrenaline pumping even faster. Tailgating, perhaps strolling through the campus of one's alma mater, and colorful halftime shows add to the fun.
On the field, there's a lot at stake for players, coaches and their fans. There's the regional, perhaps even national prestige of a great season or a superb individual performance. And there's the possibility of a bowl game.
For fans of football at all levels, it's that time again. Several high school games are scheduled tonight, with even more on tap Friday and Saturday. Also on Saturday, college football kicks off another season.
Inside today's newspaper is one of the most eagerly anticipated special sections we produce each year. It's our 2013 Football Preview, with information about 48 area high school teams, as well as college squads followed by area residents. The 132-page magazine is chock-full of information on what to expect on the gridiron.
Our unparalleled coverage continues this fall with popular features including Chalk Talk, Mountaineer Madness for West Virginia University fans, and NFL Report.
No doubt you won't be able to make it to all the games that interest you, but we'll keep you informed.
It's kickoff time. Enjoy the season!