By the TSB Staff
How can NFL teams still justify charging so much to attend preseason games? Has preseason always been this bad since we’ve been alive? In years past, didn’t it seem like marquee players actually played more than half of the first quarter? Does it seem like they are more likely to fake injuries now to get out of it than in years past? Some players, like LaDanian Tomlinson just have a personal no preseason policy. Should we just have 2 or 1 preseason game instead of four? I asked these questions to my editorial staff, and this is what they came up with…
Preseason football sucks because it is basically watching the minor league version of your favorite team. Sure the starters may play for a few drives, but most veterans don’t even bother because of injury risks. Once the first teams are taken out, you’re basically watching a CFL game, minus the crazy Canadian rules. Name recognition is always a big thing in entertainment, and by the second quarter no one cares if the third string quarterback throws three straight touchdown passes against a practice squad defense. There can be some entertainment in watching a team’s recent draft class try to justify its worth, but as a Packer fan I really don’t care if Brett Swain can catch a pass from Matt Flynn. The only big enjoyment I find in preseason games is the “Where Are They Now? Big Ten Style.” There’s nothing like spotting a scrub that used to be a star when I saw him play against the Badgers.
The reason the NFL charges so much for preseason games is similar to the increases in gas prices – because they can and people will pay it. Football is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the United States, as evidenced by the continually lowered age allowed for children to play the sport. The elementary school park right across the street from my house hosts the pee-wee league practices, and I swear that most of the kids are young enough to have a couple years left before middle school. People also love to see someone get laid out, while at the same time watching a sport that requires a little strategy; that can still be explained as simply as “the defense sucks against the pass.”
Alfred Hitchcock once said something along the lines of fear being in the anticipation, not the act, and that can be applied to football. Every play has the potential to turn into a big adrenaline rush, even though the majority of plays are grinding out 5-10 yard advances.
Was it better when we were kids? Didn’t it seem like the marquee players actually played more than half of the first quarter? Are they more likely to fake injuries now to get out of it than in years past?
Yes and no. Yes because football is football to a kid and a cool catch is a cool catch. You don’t understand why the game doesn’t matter; it’s still your team’s colors against another team’s colors. Sounds racist.
No, because as a parent, you can’t really explain the crappiness that is preseason football. The only other reason it was better when I was a kid was because the Packers would play a couple preseason games at Camp Randall, and since we had Badger season tickets, it was my only affordable chance to see the starters for a couple of snaps. It was a little different atmosphere because the people that had seats around us were typical drunk NFL fans and didn’t bring kids.
I think teams are a lot more careful with players than they have been in the past, and it’s probably because recent freak accident injuries to guys like Osi Umenyiora and Carson Palmer have made teams more paranoid. I don’t think the chances of preseason injuries have increased, but enough good players have been hurt for the league to take notice. Obviously player investments have risen as the cost and salary cap increase, and the game has gotten more complicated. But the other problem is that with more teams comes a higher pool of lower-quality players, so the best players on each team are treated a lot more delicately.
I think lowering the number of preseason games to two is sufficient enough for players to get acclimated to football game-speed. Most players know where they are at after two games, and it should quell team fears of preseason injuries. You can’t completely eliminate the chances of a star getting injured, but you can decrease them.
The other part of the preseason that is actually important is the back up position battles. You can only tell so much in training camp and practice about a player’s improvement or ability, and most second string players go against the second string on the opposite side of the ball. Preseason helps coaches sort out the back ends of their rosters, and that can be just as important as protecting starters. However, I don’t think they should add games to the regular season in place of preseason games. I think you’d just be transferring injury risks to regular season games, and you’d be stuck with that whole dilemma of completely restructuring the entire NFL business plan for OTAs, the Draft, the Combine, etc.
One additional game would be a good compromise, but adding more than that creates some complications. Plus, when will Roger Goodell find time to discipline every player that jaywalks?
I liken pre-season football games to the “exhibition” cross-town classic of the Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox that used to take place annually prior to inter-league play. Superstars didn’t really care, and regular players often gave way to subs or scrubs by the third inning.
1. Football is the most physical of all team sports, where players are open to injury. Why risk losing a marquee star and subsequently your season, for something that really doesn’t count? Unless you are red shirting your stars, there is a greater chance of getting hurt in a football game than there is a baseball game.
2. Pre-season football games, like spring training, really only matter to players who are trying to make the team. In other words, the Bears vs. the Bills likely means a lot more to a third string tight end than it would to Greg Olsen.
3. Why can the NFL charge so much? The first pre-season game is like giving a drug addict a fix, when they’ve gone through withdrawal for at least five months. Sure, it’s not the good stuff, but it’s the only drug on the market.
4. It gives sportswriters something to talk about, “controversy” to stir up and yes “drama” to create before the real action begins in September. Case in point- Jay Cutler’s comments about Devin Hester on Saturday were still being discussed on Chicago sports radio as I type this three days later.
5. Finally, players, regardless of skill level need some exposure to real-game situations in order to refine the crispness of releasing a pass that can go for an interception or a 55-yard completed bomb.
So here’s my play call on pre-season football. Catch-22, hut hut, hike!
I know athletes need time to practice before the real season starts, but I could definitely do without the NFL Preseason. The NFL is definitely my favorite league and I have started a countdown to the second Sunday in September, but making me watch four preseason games before the actual season starts when there is no real HITTING and players don’t play with heart is just not right. So Roger Goodell will become my favorite commissioner if he does away with the NFL preseason all together. College football doesn’t have a preseason and the players still play with great intensity in the first games of the season. If professional football players who are in camp (basically all year these days) need four preseason games to “warm up,” then they are not professionals at all.
I’m pretty sure professional football players will agree with me since they too look forward to the second Sunday is September. And these games probably make them feel like they are prolonging the process of anticipation.
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