Friday, August 8, 2014

Top 10 things to love about the NFL preseason

Reason Number 11: No Confetti
There was a time, honest and for true, where not watching fake football games in August wasn't only defensible, it was expected. I remember, as a child, getting flack and scorn from the Shooter Brother, who had no use at all for those games, and wouldn't even watch them if nothing else was on. When I grew up and had friends with season tickets, they'd complain bitterly about having to pay for those two games as well in their package, and would more or less give the tickets away to anyone who wanted them. The idea of having a good time in summer heat while watching games that did not matter, let alone actually selling these tickets for any amount of money, was beyond the pale.

And to many folks out there, this is still the case, and the fake games are target number one in the eternal quest to make the season longer, and milk the money cow dry. But a funny thing is happening on the way to obsolescence; more and more people are watching these "games." And there is, of course, merits to these games, which include...

10) The scared stiff first quarter series with actual players. 

If your top guys struggle, it seems like rust and it's terrible and leave them in, because their confidence is shaken. If they do well, while you know it means nothing, you still want to watch them, because they are much more watchable than the scrubs. And then your guy takes any kind of hit, and you feel guilty for watching. Yay!

9) Obsessing about position battles that aren't really battles, and don't matter at all.

Veteran Punter is really getting pushed by Rookie Punter! Let's watch and pretend that an extra few yards under the lights is going to outrank work in practice, ability to schmooze in meetings, and how much each guy might make. Drama!

8) Half-baked rule change auditions.

The NFL has decided to make extra points from 20-odd yards farther away, which means that the kicker actually has to care and pay attention to make the kick. Let's stare hard at it, and think about how this is clearly going to change... um, nothing, nothing, really. But hey, we all get to look at extra points in the air for an extra second or two!

7) Human interest stories that are, well, not really that interesting.

My Eagles have a tall physical specimen, Ifeanyi Momah. He's 6 foot 7, fast, and in his second year with the team of trying to figure out how to be a WR. He played at Boston College, has been out of football for two years, and fascinates people who dream of getting utility out of the tallest and biggest WR in the NFL.

And, well, he's probably not making the team, and not making any other team, because, well, outliers are outliers for a reason, and he wasn't a good player in college, either.

But hey, look at the big tall WR! He must be fascinating!

6) All of the coaches are above average.

If there has ever been a criticism of a coach on a telecast in preseason... well, no, there has never been a criticism of a coach on a telecast in preseason. A coach can go for it on 4th and goal from the opponent's 30 yard line, while down 2 points, with 5 seconds left in the game... and hey, he clearly just wants to see something from his QB there. The most anyone will say is that a coach is on the hot seat, or under a lot of pressure, because, dammit, THAT'S JUST HOW MANLY THIS JOB IS.

5) Woo Hits still happen.

Let's face it; a big part of the fun of the NFL is watching total strangers try to end each other's consciousness. And for guys that are desperate to work this job because all other jobs available to them are so, so much worse, they are still going to want to run through another human being to impress Coach. Fines be damned!

4) Local ads and sponsorships.

During the regular season, you're going to see nothing but national advertisers and corporate asshattery, but during the fake games, there is still room for your local car dealership, cancer center, sportsbar, and so on, and so on. Extra points for stilted voice overs from hungover players cashing a check!

3) The fresh and clean taste of vanilla.

Do you long for the days of football games that resemble those played by your local severely educationally challenged high school team? Then preseason, with its scaled down set of rush, draws, screens, slants and outs, opposed by an unending parade of zone defense, is so the game for you. Remember, if you put your 5-wide lineup or DL stunt on film, it destroys all of its power.

2) Games with cache.

Hey, anyone can -- and will -- watch the regular season and playoff games. Those are shared experiences that more or less define your local sports fandom, to the point that after a certain number of years, they seem almost impossible to *not* watch. But preseason? Those define the *real* fans, dammit, and you must be a *better* fan for watching them. Grow your hipster facial hair out and raise your nose high, Real Fan. You've earned it.

1) The unspeakable horror that is local TV broadcast teams.

Thanks to the NFL Network, we are now exposed to a wealth of absurd chuckleheads who are so bad at commenting on games, they make the regular season chuckleheads look... well, less war criminal-ish by comparison. Seriously, over the next few weeks, just turn on NFLN for the background noise of some old special teams ace that's three sheets to the wind, teamed up with the can't get out of town local station sportscaster who couldn't be more homerish. They will, I promise you, announce the game as if their lives depend on it, and the game actually matters. Good times!

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