It was Oct. 2, and fall had already settled over Chicago. The temperatures were in the 60s, the leaves had started to turn and crowds basked in the sidewalk cafés around the Loop, enjoying their last bit of al fresco dining before the coming freeze. Me? I headed for the airport with a suitcase I was soon to learn weighed 72 pounds. Excessive? Hardly. It was playoff time.

When I landed in Houston that day, the RealFeel temperatures were pushing triple digits. Over the next few weeks, I was in and out of Houston as the heat wave persisted and eventually relented to the coastal Texas version of fall.

I went to St. Petersburg, Florida, where walking the downtown sidewalks in the afternoon provided little evidence that a major event was in town. I went to New York, where it was chilly, rainy and pulsating at a level Chicago never quite reaches.