August 17, 2007
by Bob Hulsey
Hello, football. So good to see you again.
It doesn’t seem to matter that the starters make a token appearance then don caps and head for the bench. It doesn’t matter that the games themselves don’t matter, other than who gets injured. It’s beyond silly to really care about who wins the job as the fourth outside linebacker unless you or an immediate family member is one of the linebackers involved.
Yet, still we watch. This weekend, there will be five (count ’em) nationally televised preseason NFL games so we must not be alone.
I don’t know why this year I have eagerly awaited the start of football season like none since the 1981 baseball strike year but I have. It’s been a challenge all summer to keep the mind engaged.
How dull a summer has it been when all the talk has been about Paris, Lindsay, Barry, Obama, Hillary and Rudy, coming off a spring awash in Anna Nicole?
Here in Texas, we didn’t even get to experience "global warming". We spent all of July dodging raindrops and thoroughly enjoying highs in the 80s. Right now, Tropical Storm Erin is passing overhead and all I want to do is ask if she has a sister. Lawns are still green around here instead of the typical late-summer brown. We’ve hit 100 degrees just once all summer. If this is all due to "global warming", then, hell, find me some freon to spew into the ozone. Give me more of this!
The Astros have been a disappointment all season and it would have been even worse if Craig Biggio hadn’t distracted us with his pursuit of a personal milestone. Sadly, the front office doesn’t even seem to realize they’ve got problems to fix. They’re still living in 2005, waiting for some 20-game winning streak to put them back in the race.
I’ve been killing time with a computer game called "Baseball Mogul." If you were the kid who wanted to be Walt Jocketty instead of Tony LaRussa or Albert Pujols, this is the game for you. I’m told they have a football counterpart but I doubt it has the same sizzle because football isn’t as stat-obsessed as baseball is.
When the few TV series I follow all went into summer haitus, I went into a used video store and bought the first two seasons of Lost on DVD. It’s a show that I thought would be enjoyable but was also the sort of show that needed to be viewed from the beginning in order to have a chance of understanding what you were watching. (Boy, was I right about that. Even having watched everything in sequence, there is still much left unexplained.) I thought two seasons of Lost would last me about two months of viewing. Instead, it took me two weeks. Then I managed to watch season 3 over blurry internet feeds so now I’m caught up for when the series resumes in February – right after football season.
Still, nothing fills the void that only a good football telecast can. Fortunately, I have a whole cabinet full of videotapes and DVDs of past football games. I have connections who can supply me with still more great games. Last week, I got a shipment that included the classic 2001 AFC Playoff in the snow between Oakland and the Patriots (the game in which the Raiders got "tucked"). Just hearing conversations about inches of snow and wind chills felt good while sweating through a 95-degree day. Knowing already who won the game is a minor irritant tempered by the fact that I was watching football again.
ESPN Classic used to be there to provide top games from yesteryear. Unfortunately, it has now devolved into a forum for old poker tournaments and NASCAR races. Personally, if the competitors look like I do, it can’t be that much of a sport. On the other hand, it could be worse, matching ESPN’s obsession over "Who’s Now," "Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame Bill Buckner" or the "X Games."
But all these are just time killers waiting for the new football season to begin in early September. Wall to wall pigskin. You know you want it. That’s why even exhibition games with practice squad wannabes can hold our attention this time of year, even for those who don’t have fantasy drafts. The inner fan hopes they can just hit the fast forward button of their lives and kick it ahead a month. I know I do.
Preseason games, by design, are rarely perfect and rarely memorable. Not just on the field either. When San Francisco put in their third string quarterback on Monday, ESPN’s graphic introduced him as "Name Lastname." Everyone from wide receivers to announcers to referees are trying to iron out the gaffes.
I watch preseason football games not because I care who wins or loses but for the hope they contain. They signal soon the eventual return to calmer temperatures, football-frenzied weekends, foods that taste best when hot and inane commentary from ex-players who struggle to follow a Teleprompter.
Every March, I read romantic prose as baseball writers craft odes to Spring Training. The sun is shining again, the birds are singing, the last gasps of winter are shaken off to reveal spring, glorious spring. All well and good but I feel just as strongly about August and the return to meaningful live football games. It’s the light at the end of the steamy tunnel that tells you fall is coming.
It can’t get here soon enough.
Bob Hulsey asks the universal question – Kate or Claire (or Sun)?