Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It Looks Good, But It's Still Preseason Football

In case the National Football League or your biggest sports fan friend has not told you, football season is right around the corner.

Yes, the players have put on the helmets and shoulder pads, fantasy football emails are being sent out and football fans are getting giddy as the weather begins to cool down. Football season is right on the horizon. The happiest night of the year for football fans will likely be Sept. 9, when the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints play against the Minnesota Vikings. For those of you unfamiliar, those two teams played in the NFC Championship Game last season. The Saints won and went on to defeat the Indianapolis Colts to secure New Orleans’ first football championship.

For now, though, we’re stuck with the preseason and games I could care less about. No disrespect to all the low-round draft picks and undrafted free agents trying to avoid the inevitable cuts that come with the preseason, but I just can’t get too excited about preseason football. Most of the teams’ starters or key players are finished by the end of the first quarter and most preseason games are glorified scrimmages filled with guys whose names most fans don’t know – and probably won’t know come September. I barely watch preseason football on television and have only attended one preseason game at an NFL stadium. Seven years ago, I attended a Washington Redskins game against the New England Patriots and I didn’t pay for the ticket. I went with a friend who is a big Redskins fan and even she hated the idea of having to buy preseason tickets as part of her Redskins season ticket plan.

A lot of people feel the same way about preseason games. Yet on Monday, August 16, so many people I know were getting hyped and talking trash as the New York Jets and New York Giants played their first preseason game of 2010. The event was special given that it was the first football game at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (currently shared equally by the Jets and Giants) and it was the first time New York area football fans could see the local teams in semi-real game action. Of course, there’s also this supposed animosity between the teams now as the Jets are sending a message that they’re trying to win a Super Bowl for the first time in 41 years after a surprising run to the AFC Championship Game. On the other hand, the older, more successful Giants franchise has received much less attention and hype as they try to rebound from a disappointing 2009 season.

The game had some edge to it. The Jets offense played well minus an interception by quarterback Mark Sanchez, the Jets defense was solid even without holdout cornerback Darrelle Revis and new addition LaDanian Tomlinson looked fit for the most part. For the Giants, the offensive line needs a little work, but it looks like running back Ahmad Bradshaw will emerge as a big player for Big Blue. As with many preseason games, one rookie trying to impress showed out. That was Victor Cruz, a wide receiver who scored three touchdowns against the Jets backup defense, giving Giants fans a new wideout to keep an eye on before the regular season starts. Congrats to the kid for impressing and likely making the team. Oh and the Giants “won” the game 31-16.

The way some folks have talked during and since the game, though, you’d think this was the biggest football game of the season. Some Giants fan tried to stop Jets superfan Fireman Ed from doing his “J-E-T-S” chant. The Jets, for some silly reason, held their Ring of Honor ceremony at halftime. And to top it all off, Giants running back Brandon Jacobs declared after the “game” that they had just beat the Jets and that the new stadium is still “our” stadium. (Though I’m sure Jets owner Woody Johnson will gladly show you receipts from the costs he paid to build the New Meadowlands to suggest otherwise.) Even fans got into it over the Internet, through Facebook, Twitter and sports message boards. To hear some people say it, this was the beginning of the end for the Jets and that Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan was finally beginning to pay for talking too much about “leading the league in wins.” It was apparently also the beginning of a Giants’ resurgence and them re-establishing themselves as New York’s top football team.

Really? All this from one game? And the first preseason game at that?

I understand if you love football, but anyone pinning their hopes to one preseason football game needs to have their head examined. Yes, it was fun to see fans talking a little smack and getting excited whenever a play went the way of Big Blue or Gang Green. But most football fans with common sense know that this game was hardly a sign of things to come for either team. Both teams still have things to work on. Both teams can be happy with certain aspects of Monday night. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably forget about Monday’s game once you’re two days clear of it – unless you DVR’ed it and want to cling to the memories. (That’s all on you, though.)

No matter how “big” the local media or ESPN make it, preseason football is still preseason football. To drive home this point, let me leave you with this: The 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in their preseason campaign. They went on to win ZERO regular season games.

With that said, I look forward to the regular season and the Jets showing the Baltimore Ravens a thing or two on Monday, Sept. 13.

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