Forget all this talk about BYU's chances for the national football championship. Ignore all the hoopla about teams like Colorado, Miami, Georgia Tech and Texas needing impressive victories in their prestigious Jan. 1 bowl games to aid them in their own title hunts. And don't get caught up in the hype surrounding next week's NFL dream matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.
For your information, the title contests have already been decided . . . and decided . . . and decided again. The games have literally been played in Utah County's back yard - or better put, in the front yard of the Taylor home. And you won't find participants by the names of Detmer, Ismail, Bienemy or Klingler. Instead, the players call each other by their first names - Austin T. and Austin M., Colt and Cameron, Robbie and Digger.During the past couple of months at the Taylor home-turned-stadium, we've been treated with a front-porch seat to that fall fad that afflicts numerous youngsters across America - front-yard football.
This isn't your sanitized, organized version sponsored by civic recreation departments, with prepubescent boys so overburdened with oversized equipment that they waddle around like obese penguins.
These are pick-up games, pitting a pair of teams comprised of two or sometimes three boys on each side. And the only time the local boys elected to don any equipment was when they went searching closets for possible headgear and came up with a makeshift collection that included a pair of motorcycle helmets, a youth football helmet, a bicycle helmet, a skateboard helmet and a lacrosse helmet.
What has made this daily ritual of front-yard football even more appealing is that nearly each of the half-dozen 7- and 8-year-old neighborhood friends is the only boy in his family and each is making his first foray into football.
They're leaving behind - at least until the winter snowstorms result in unplayable conditions - the worlds of race cars, dinosaurs, jet planes, snakes and space shuttles. Sprinting from the school bus and into the house, the boys proclaim the same after-school words each afternoon - "Super Bowl today."
The rules for the afternoon games are simple: Teams get four downs to go the length of the yard for a touchdown, and there hasn't been a punt yet this year. Either one team scores on its first or second play, or the other team forces a fumble or intercepts a pass. Point-after kicks have to clear the top of the chain-link fence at the side of the house to be good.
Despite the reckless-abandon playing style, the boys are still able to avoid colliding with permanent obstacles, including several midfield planters and the sideline boundaries comprised of sidewalks, curbs, doorsteps and fences.
Most injuries are minor - bumps to the body and bruises to the ego. The two most serious incidents this season - one boy chipped an ankle bone on an exposed sprinkler head, while another suffered the indignation of being tackled into a pile of doggie doo. There's something gallant about sporting a pair of crutches for a week or two.
Oh, how football fosters the imagination and creativity of a 7-year-old, who spends his afternoons tossing a football to friends or to himself and his evenings conjuring up team names, outlining possible plays and sketching helmet designs.
Some of the most noteworthy efforts - the Utah State Hound Dogs, the Penn State Bullets, the Minnesota State Tornadoes, and the Idaho State Garbage Dogs. The helmet artwork accompanying the latter depicts a dog lifting the lid off a garbage can.
Another offshoot of first-time fall football euphoria for a youngster is collecting football cards - not as a investment but as an enjoyment. Happiness is finding a pack that contains both Joe Montana and Jerry Rice; meanwhile, a rookie card is merely representative of an unproven first-year prospect.
Best of all, football to 7-year-olds is a game, a sport - not a high-profile business or a high-pressure scholastic activity. Their vocabularies are uncluttered with words and phrases like Plan B free agent, NCAA probation, anterior cruciate ligament, performance incentives, college recruiters, contract negotiations, redshirt freshman and two-minute offense.
Instead, 7-year-olds are just learning the differences between an incompletion and a fumbled pass, between a PAT kick and a kickoff, and between the NFL and the NCAA.
It's still a game with winners every day. Everybody triumphs and everybody wins a title - if not today, then perhaps tomorrow or the day after.