I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I’m not looking forward to the return of football.
Not the sport. The sport I still adore with all my sporting heart. The first time I see a receiver get speared by a linebacker in the middle of his crossing route, I’m gonna leap out of my chair and let out the wimpiest white boy yell I can muster. And the first time Fred Jackson darts through a tiny hole in his blocking and breaks one for a first down, I can’t wait to find every hand I can for a series of unsuccessful high-fives. (We drink in dimly lit bars and hand-eye coordination is the first thing to go. That and we’re white.)
But… I hate football coverage.
I’m sorry. Hate is too strong a word. I loathe it. It ranks somewhere around internet ads with audio, athlete's foot and Sarah Palin. And unfortunately, we’re hours away from returning to our sports-media’s regularly scheduled over-coverage of rumors, hyperbole and puppet-rhetoric.
For God’s sake, I’ve already seen three reports about whether or not Brett Favre is going to come back. Three. And the new deal has yet to be signed. No one can be excited about this.
Soon ESPN, Sports Illustrated and every sports blog in the country will be studying the NFL’s every move again. Scratch that. They’ll be studying every move that the NFL allows them to see.
The Barrister touched on the fact a couple days ago, that the current labor situation exposed a simple fact about the NFL’s media coverage. The media gets what the league spoon-feeds them. Information is regularly withheld. Whether it’s the commissioner of the league or the field goal kicker, you’re not likely to get one bit of real information from them in an interview.
(Sidenote: Calling Goodell a "devil" was hardly his best quote. About working out in Arizona, he said, "There's snakes out there. I grabbed a rattler by his tail and threw him over the fence last month ... Had to ... My son was here visiting, so that bitch had to bounce out. ASAP." Amazing.)
His comments about Goodell were exaggeration at it’s crudest, but at least it was honest. Rarely do you get that sort of candor from someone involved in football not named Harrison, Moss or Owens. Maybe they have egos the size of the stadiums they play in, but maybe that’s what it takes to break through the NFL’s cone of silence.
And I’ll say it, these days, that’s the kind of coverage I do like. Jerry Jones is an asshole, but at least he’s an honest asshole. Back in May, he said, “I didn’t spend $1.2 billion to build a stadium and not have the Cowboys playing football in it this year.” That is the most honest thing to come out of any of the owners, let alone Goodell, during this entire process.
So now it’s back, as we all knew deep down in our hearts it would be. The NFL is returning and bringing with it a deluge of free agent rumors, training camp non-stories and unsubstantiated forecasts. Before long there will be power-rankings and fantasy stats to sort through. All other sports will fade into the background.
Soccer enjoyed a brief moment in the sun this summer. Be honest soccer fans, even you know that if the football off-season would’ve been in full swing, we would’ve gotten half as much coverage of the Men’s Gold Cup and Women’s World Cup as we did.
But ultimately, I’ve been enjoying this time without football gossip because the return was inevitable. Neither side was ever very far apart, there were simply financial matters that needed to be discussed. Of course, nothing has really been decided on an 18 game regular season, concussions or the NFLPA’s retirement plan, but those issues were never what this lockout was about. And I’m sure the powers that be will be happy to hammer those details out in secret while we’re all busy organizing our fantasy draft wish lists and debating our real team’s depth charts. (Seriously though, if Stevie Johnson isn’t #1 entering this season, Gailey has his metaphorical head up his ass.)
So let the inundation begin, but one last thought before we do. We spent four and a half months not talking about the off-season and the world didn’t end. Maybe we can make it one more without someone saying, “Brett Favre can still help some football team out there.” Maybe. But probably not.
But to the Bills I say welcome back! I can't wait to see what you have for us this year. (God help me.)
And yes, welcome back, Clayton, King, Schefter, etc. You might need a minute to get reacclimated, but I’m sure in a day or two, it’ll feel like you never left.