Every year, like the turning of the seasons, renewal brings fresh life to the sports landscape. The assorted detritus of the long, hot summer is swept away by the rejuvenating stream of optimism that is the NFL preseason.
Before the season begins, every team is a championship contender. Surely, the fans say, this is the year the Browns will ascend to their rightful place among the league's elite. Surely, this year, Arizona will achieve self-actualization and win their division.
With time (and sage and rosemary), those dreams will fade. The have-nots will sink, the haves will rise. But there will always be the stories: Tony Dungy and the Colts finally wining a championship; the continued rebirth of the once-moribund San Francisco 49ers; the New Orleans Saints recovering from Katrina, creating an explosive offense, and making it to the verge of the Super Bowl.
There will always be stories. They are wonderful stories, stories that make you laugh a little, that make you smile, that make you cheer for a team, for a player, for a sport.
Not all stories can have happy endings. Players are people; like any group of people, they are flawed - they can disappoint us, can anger us, can disgust us. Not every team can exceed expectations - some will fall short of their goals, will let their fans down.
But the sport is still there. It is still beckoning us, still calling us. Are you listening? It's football time again. And it feels good.