2011 NFL Season Preview

The upcoming National Football League  season has seized all my waking thoughts. Frankly, I become slightly concerned when it strikes me just how long I spent last season (1) preparing to watch a football game, (2) watching the game, (3) talking about the game I just watched before (4) pouring over stats from the game I just watched for fantasy football purposes. I do this instead of productive endavours such as writing Kim Kardashian love letters in cursive loops of my blood, getting into better shape so that my dirty laundry no longer smells like Becel and bacon, mentally abusing my dog for not being able to play Sudoku, etc.

Call me crazy but I don’t give a damn.

The Three Wise Men

I’ve stayed silent when each girlfriend past and present said, in no uncertain terms, being a sports fan is stupid. To cheer for one group of ignorant millionaires on a team owned by ego-maniacal billionaires (yes, I’m looking at you Al Davis) over another of the same, when none of the principals have not the faintest idea of your existence, is the height of folly. Yet, each year, when Calgary’s six days of summer give way to cold winds and morning frost, I’m as excited  as Rex Ryan in a Manolo Blahnik Boutique. Here are five quick, unrelated thoughts on the upcoming season:

1. Pigskin Punditry: The most loathsome aspect of watching an NFL game is enduring the tedium of the NFL pre-game shows. For those unfamiliar, this is the show before and after games where incoherent, punch drunk former players and dumb, slovenly failed coaches drone about pre-determined narratives, typed and formatted by the executive producer, that they will spend 60 minutes attempting to weave into the game at the cost of all coherence. Some of the most offensive “football-isms”:

  • “Lemme tell ya, that guy is a winner.” Typically, the titular “winner” is a quarterback who has the misfortune of playing on a very good team. Ignore that he is on the field only half the time, and even then, is only one of 11 playing in a synergistic corporeal explosion encompassing blockers, runners and receivers, he, and only he, is the winner. So Philip Rivers, who was 2nd only to Tom Brady last year in QB rating, is not a winner because his team missed the playoffs, but Matt Hasselback who posted god-awful numbers is, because his team did.
  • “He’s a game manager, Troy.” Usually said about any quarterback who isn’t much good but is either a close friend or pupil of the commentator or a shitty quarterback he is attracted to on a visceral, confusing level (e.g. Mark Sanchez)
  • “If they want to win the game they need to control the ball. Perhaps I should write this wisdom down and put it in my safe lest someone steal it. So, if I don’t gently toss the ball directly to my opponent, I stand a better chance of winning the game? How revolutionary. What’s next on the cutting edge, Joe Buck? Are you going to tell me that the Super Bowl MVP habitually goes to the quarterback that doesn’t cut the football open and try to fuck it? Because that would explain why flag football teams won’t have me.
  • “He’s a scrappy player, this one. Just a gritty competitor.” This can mean one of two things but both signify the player you just watched make a “scrappy” play, really really sucks. Usually the player is a 6th round draft choice who, against all odds and skills, manages to stay on a football team year after year for no other reason than he is a good guy to have in the locker room or he’s a unatheletic white player the owner keeps on the squad so as not to completely alienate the fan base.

I don't think he's coming back

2.  I may lose a part of my soul if the Eagles don’t at least make it to the NFC Conference Finals. As crazy as this may sound, Donovan McNabb’s self-esteem hangs in the balance. For his career as the third best black quarterback of all time (kind of like saying the third best 100 metre dash sprinter over 300 lbs but whatever) the media has knocked him for his inaccuracy, tendency to succumb to injury and choking in big games. The Eagles were so fed up of these shortcomings, they traded him to the Redskins, a division rival, for a family sized box of Twix and a case of bootleg Dominican rum. I can’t deny these McNabb criticisms are partly true. But he’s always been a top-tier quarterback who has endured a lot of disrespect at the hands of his coach and owner and still succeeded while keeping out of trouble. So after losing Kevin Kolb for the season they turn to Michael Vick who kicked absolute ass last year. But, he’s an inaccuracte, brittle quarterback who chokes in big games. It happened last year as the hits accumulated and defensive coordinators began to contain his athletic brilliance. What does he get after last season? $100 million. What did Donovan get for the same thing? A kick in the ass out of town. So if this team falls short of that championship game, a game Donovan quarterbacked them too perpetually, I’ll know that the organization just hated him and I’d have to re-evaluate my loyalty to such a team.

3. What is the ceiling on Michael Vick’s fantasy production this year provided he plays all 16 games?  He’ll be exactly what I’d hoped for from Daunte Culpepper.

4. The gates of hell must have swung open to belch fire and sulphur into the ozone because I’m going to say something good about ESPN. I’m very excited about their revamped quarterback rating, even if the usual out of touch pundits think it signals the triumph of pocket protector geekism over manliness and tradition.

5. Will somebody sign Clinton Portis?

6. I will watch the NFL Network exclusively this season. Instead of going blind with impotent rage when FOX and NBC talk shows launch a ten minute debate as to whether Chad Ochocinco will rely on speed or power when he boxes a kangaroo on Pay Per View in the off-season or whether Terrell Owens has dreamier abs than Ray Lewis, I will avoid it entirely and listen to people who actually care about the game they’re being paid to analyze instead of the sideshow that surrounds it.

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