If, for a moment, I could enter into the Brian’s Den Safe Space, I have a confession to make: I haven’t been that excited for this NFL season. Yes, football is my favorite sport. Yes, I know more about football than anyone you know and have never given an incorrect football prediction. Yes, many celebrities and international power players have contacted me for fantasy and gambling advice. But I just haven’t been as amped up for football this year. In fact, for the first time since I hit puberty, I didn’t get the new Madden the day it came out, and I still haven’t gotten it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a morality-driven plea to stop watching football or anything. I couldn’t care less about concussions, Papa John’s, Nike (just kidding, I will always stan for Nike), anthems, or any of the other b.s. It’s almost worse, but I just didn’t really care about the NFL anymore.
Why, you ask? I think there’s a number of reasons. For starters, I have less time than I used to, which has eroded my sports obsessions across the board. It’s just a natural (but stupid. Who decided we need jobs, anyway?) part of aging. With less time to devote to knowing which high school every player in the NFL went to, my level of devotion will naturally decline. There’s the rapidly declining quality of play, which goes hand in hand with the new safety rules. With virtually no practice time allowed anymore, there’s no time to develop players, there’s no time to install anything but the most rudimentary of schemes (thus the rise in the so-called “college offense”), and, in the end, the best athletes win because, without the skill development, the teams with the best physical tools win. This doesn’t lead to good football. The Patriots, Saints, Packers, and Falcons are just about the only teams to have consistently good offenses in the last, what, three years? And take away Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are instantly out of that conversation. The NFL just STINKS. And that leads to probably the biggest reason- for the first time since I started following the NFL, the end of the Patriots run may finally be in sight and I’m not sure how to deal with it in a healthy way. I was nine when Tom Brady made his debut. Nine! I’m an old man now, and not having him in my life anymore seems catastrophic. I’m not ready to root for a nine-win team. I’d rather die. Luckily, the Pats are going to win at least thirteen games yet again this year, but what about next year? Or the year after that? Are they just going to fade into the rabble once the Brady-Belichick brain trust leaves? That sounds like hell. Why keep investing in something that, shortly enough, probably won’t give me any kind of return whatsoever.
But, here we are, two days from the regular season, and I can’t wait. I’m just a sucker. I will never not love football. I’m an addict. I’m a junkie with no intention of changing his ways. When football is gone, I really think about everything I don’t like it. It’s too slow. There’s too many commercials. It’s overanalyzed. It’s preposterously politicized for all the wrong reasons. The people than run it belong somewhere between the eighth and ninth circles of hell. Most of the players do, too. But you know what? It’s still football. And I was cursed with uncanny football acumen and dedication, and I have no choice but to consume each and every second of action that crosses my face. Now that we’re on the doorstep of yet another NFL season, I’m dreaming of rainy Sundays where I don’t consider leaving the house. I’m thinking about all those Saturday nights with great college games that I’ll tell everyone I’m either working or sick or too tired or whatever else. I’m just happy to have football back. This offseason was a long, stormy night for me. The dawn is approaching. Go Pats.