Well, here we find ourselves, on Preseason Eve, way more excited than we should be to watch the Patriots backups take on the Jaguars backups in what promises to be a spectacular display of underprepared mediocrity. But we don’t care about that, do we? No. Because any way you slice it, it’s still the NFL, dammit. And with tomorrow’s kickoff comes the wonderful, wonderful knowledge that meaningful football is only a few short weeks away.
At the end of the day, though, watching the NFL preseason is very much like watching Baywatch Nights. Sure, you see a few familiar faces, and it is still Baywatch, but for the most part you end up staring at a bunch of people you don’t recognize trying to figure out what the hell they are doing while all the sexy superstars you were hoping to ogle just stand there with all their clothes on. It’s the ultimate tease.
Luckily, also just like Baywatch Nights, the preseason doesn’t last long.
Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the preseason – I do. In spite of myself, I look forward to the preseason every year. Yes, I know that the games are just not that exciting to watch. I know that few coaches -if any - put any real merit into preseason games other than to use them as a glorified tryout for players on the roster bubble. I know that expectations are low, we’ll see a lot of different looks, and ultimately very little can be learned over the next few weeks about the state of our favorite teams. All the preseason really does is leave us absolutely ravenous for the regular season and gets us back in the mindset of placing football abnormally high up on our priorities list. It’s eating at Arby’s when Morton’s is right across the street. But hey, it beats starving to death. And when you’ve suffered through an exceptionally long hunger strike, as we NFL fans have this year, even a Junior Roast Beef Deluxe sounds appealing.
But aside from resigning myself to the usual banality and less-than-stellar quality of the games, along with the preseason also comes a problem that I’m hoping, for the sake of humanity, is unique only to me. I must admit, I’m more than a little embarrassed to say what I’m about to say. There are certain aspects of my level of Patriots fandom that I know aren’t quite normal, perhaps bordering on unhealthy, and this is one of them.
I’m going to watch every single minute of the Patriots preseason, and I’m going to read way too much into everything.
I know I shouldn’t. I tell myself not to. I constantly remind myself that how a team does and how a team looks in the preseason is about as meaningful as the first 3 quarters of an NBA game or pretty much anything that comes out of Kim Kardashian’s mouth. I know that in 2004 the Patriots went 1-3 in the preseason, including a 31-3 drubbing at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals. They finished that regular season 14-2 and brought home their 3rd Lombardi trophy in 4 years. I know I’m a fool to think that Belichick would expose the league to any of his diabolical genius in such insignificant games. Yet still, amid all of this certainty and concrete evidence, I also know that I’m going to get a little worried at each miscommunication or blown assignment. I’m going to fret over dropped passes and interceptions, and wonder if our running backs will be able to get over cases of early onset fumble-itis. I’m going to stress out way more than any rational human being should over these pointless, pointless contests, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.
Even if the Patriots win, even if they look flawless as they go on to trounce everybody and go 4-0 before the regular season starts, I’m still going to worry. What if they start to think that they are invincible? Is this a sign that they will peak too early? How is the coaching staff going to react to such huge wins? Why can’t I just enjoy this victory for what it is?
Pathetic, isn’t it?
I may be blowing my mania out of proportion a little here. If the Patriots look rusty, off-kilter, and a little lost out there tomorrow (as the result of, say, a highly shortened offseason combined with an influx of new talent and a coaching staff who has no respect for the preseason and thus puts little to no effort into game-planning), I’m most certainly not going to be stomping around my apartment, screaming profanity at the television and causing my downstairs neighbor to reach for her poking broom. I’ll save that for the regular season. And if they lose to Jacksonville, I’m going to do my very best to brush it off. I’ll tell myself and everyone around me “it’s only preseason, so who cares?” And for the most part, I’ll mean it. But, deep down, there is going to be a very twisted, depraved, lonely part of me that will wonder if all is not well in the land of The Hooded One. I’ll examine Brady’s body language during the postgame interview and try to see if he is just putting on a front or if he’s genuinely concerned. Simply put, I’m going to find something that isn’t there, and I’m going to beat it into the ground.
I share this little nugget with you in hopes that you aren’t like me, and that you see the preseason for what it truly is: a nice teaser before football really starts, an excuse to get drunk with your
fellow degenerates friends and try and predict which rookies will have the greatest impact this year. On Friday morning, you can enjoy media breakdowns of the game and hear the experts analyze what New England did well and what still needs a lot of work. But please, for your own sake, don’t read into these games at all. Just enjoy them for what they are. Don’t get upset over sloppy play or an ugly loss. Because believe me – once it starts, it never stops.
So take a lesson from yours truly, folks. Don’t let yourselves fall into the trap of worrying about Haynesworth’s conditioning or Ochocinco’s drops or Brady’s lack of rhythm. Don’t fret if the Patriots defense gets carved up by the Jags 3rd string QB Luke McCown (thanks, Google!). Because I’ll be worrying enough for all of us. And believe me, it doesn’t do anyone a lick of good.
So here’s to the preseason – right?