Image: Best Art Design
Toby Talbot  /  AP
Fall, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, wins the Oscar for Best Art Design. The turning leaves are so stunning, you don’t mind raking them later, columnist Michael Ventre writes.
By
NBCSports.com contributor
updated 9/25/2007 4:58:17 PM ET 2007-09-25T20:58:17

When I was a kid, summer was the best time of all. Granted, some of that had to do with summer vacation, which meant no school and no homework and included, in no particular order, swimming, biking, playing basketball and softball, eating watermelon, barbecuing hot dogs and hamburgers, and lying on the beach. While summer often seemed as if it went on forever, it never lasted nearly long enough.

As an adult, however, summer represents an entirely different experience. Sure, now I can drink beer with my hot dogs and hamburgers. That’s a plus. But summer also brings scorching heat and thus higher electric bills from running the air conditioner, as well as news about wildfires, high gas prices and the dangers of too much exposure to the sun.

Wow. How did summer turn from hero to villain? How did summer go so wrong?

Fortunately, there is fall, and fall is a constant. Fall doesn’t bring quite the same weather-related perils as does summer. Fall is neutral. Fall is Switzerland (the government, not the snow-capped Alps).

Fall, for the most part, consists of moderate to cool temperatures, changing leaves, football, Halloween candy, Thanksgiving eats and the release of relatively intelligent movies. What’s not to like?

Fall has arrived, and here are 10 reasons why we’re ecstatic about it:

How cool is this? Feel that breeze? It isn’t the kind of gust that sends tumbleweeds rolling across arid plains, but rather a refreshing puff of slightly chilled air informing us that Mother Nature has turned the thermostat down and turned the air conditioners off. I can sit outside on the front steps without having to keep a towel nearby to dab the perspiration from my brow. I no longer have to think of the outdoors as one giant roasting pan.

Wardrobe department: I’m a T-shirt and shorts guy. From roughly late April until late September, I wear T-shirts and shorts almost exclusively, even to weddings. And that’s a good thing. But I have a whole closet full of clothes. Most of the items were given to me by concerned loved ones, but a few I bought myself. When fall arrives, it’s a chance to vary my attire a bit. Instead of T-shirts and shorts, I might go with a flannel shirt and jeans. Or a sweatshirt and jeans. Or a short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt, with a jacket and jeans. Fall gives me a chance to say to those close to me, “See? Remember that sweater you bought me two Christmases ago? I told you I wear it, and here’s the proof.”

Football weather: Not everybody is into football. But for those who are, fall provides the perfect stage for the sport. The air is crisp, the grass is thick, the leaves accumulate and provide a soft place to land (if you’re playing touch football). In David Letterman’s studio audience, they keep the temperature like a refrigerated meat trailer for the purpose of keeping the audience perky. Same principal at football games. Fans feel the chilly air and scream obscenities at the opposition. Is there anything more beautiful?

A new menu: There are food items that are specific to summer, like hot dogs and burgers, certain fruits, berries and melons, corn on the cob, etc. But taste buds shift into fall mode with such favorites as hearty soups and stews, roasted meats, casseroles, yams and potatoes, gourmet breads and pies, to name a few. What you’ll probably notice now is that the clothes that you break out when fall arrives are all a size larger than you usually take, to accommodate the extra weight you’ll put on with all the yummy fall foods.

Natural palette: In winter, the landscape is often dominated by a lovely blanket of white, but that can get old after a while when you have to keep shoveling it to get your car out of the driveway. Summer is associated with sizzling temperatures, which means drought and a scorched brown earth. Spring has lots of pretty flowers. But fall, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, wins the Oscar for Best Art Design. The turning leaves are so stunning, you don’t mind raking them later.

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Car windows: In the summer, I don’t open the car windows much, because I usually have to keep the air conditioning cranking. In the winter, I also don’t open the car windows, because I find that if I do that, snow flurries often accumulate on my shoulder. But in fall, I can drive with the windows wide open and feel the brisk clean air on my skin. If you have a sun roof, that’s even better. Just be careful: If you start to feel icicles forming on your face, that means fall has given way to winter.

Home for the holidays: Thanksgiving is probably the most popular holiday of the year, because it’s a time for families to get together, and it’s also not religion-specific like Christmas or Chanukah. And in what season does it occur? Thank you. Thanksgiving conjures various images of a feast and good cheer around a big table, followed by lots of dirty dishes and pots and pans, and many folks sitting on sofas holding their bellies and groaning. Second place in the fall holiday derby goes to Halloween, with its frightening costumes and even scarier levels of sugar consumption.

Screen and tube: The summer consists mostly of mindless popcorn movies made on inflated budgets and sold to the public at inflated ticket prices. More often than not, heavily publicized summer films never live up to the hype. But in fall, quietly, the studios trot out the good stuff. They figure the kids are in school, so we can’t keep treating our customers as if they have underdeveloped brains. It’s the best time of year for moviegoers. As far as TV is concerned, while I know the fall TV season is important, frankly I don’t get it. There are midseason replacements and lots of cable outlets, so the fall network shows just aren’t as big a deal anymore. But it’s a tradition, like that Waldorf salad at Thanksgiving that nobody touches. So I included it.

Coffee time: I love coffee. I like to drink it in the morning, in the afternoon, and even in the evening. But in the summer, my coffee consumption is curtailed somewhat because of the hot weather. I know there is such a thing as iced coffee, but it’s not the same to me. Coffee is meant to be consumed hot. When fall arrives, there is nothing quite like having a large mug of piping hot coffee, or for that matter, a tall, nonfat, easy-whip mocha, while I sit outside with a good book and watch the squirrels stare at me, wishing they had some.

Shopping spree: When fall arrives, it’s a reminder that the holiday gift-giving season is also here. Christmas and Chanukah aren’t until December, but you would be well advised to drive peacefully through the leaf-strewn avenues toward your local mall to do your shopping now while the stores are fairly calm. The alternative is to fight the snow and slush, battle for a parking space, compete for sale items, wait in long lines and then have a good cry. Fall is when the smart shoppers shop.

Michael Ventre is a contributor to msnbc.com and a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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