Yes, I know I should be really happy about football being back and I am. I also should be really happy that in less than a week we'll see the Redskins take the field again......
And I am.
But, I really do have certain things I can't stand about pre-season football. Roger Goodell has been pushing for the creation of a 18 game season with one of the reasons to eliminate two games off of the pre-season schedule. Don't get me wrong, there needs to be a pre-season. It's a good way for veteran players to shake off rust with live game snaps. It's a good way to get rookies adjusted to actual game hitting, tackling and speed. Most importantly it's a showcase for developing players to earn a roster spot through performance.
That said here are 5 things I hate about the preseason.
1. Paying full price for an exhibition - Football tickets aren't cheap and as a fan it just doesn't seem right to have to pay full price for watching mostly 2nd, 3rd and 4th string players play. Now if you're getting tickets on the secondary market, you'll probably get a deal. That said, it's the season ticket holders who generally pay for this. Most season ticket packages require holders to pay for both home pre-season games along with the regular season games. Why do you think Goodell has suggested the 18 games season. Season ticket holders aren't happy about pre-season ticket costs. The NFL/NFLPA doesn't want to lose revenue by just cutting out two pre-season games. His solution is to cut the two pre-season games and replace it with two regular season games. The NFLPA doesn't like the idea and some fans don't like it either, but the NFL does need to come up with a solution to this problem in a bad economy. How about discounted rates for pre-season games?
2. Injuries - What drives many fans crazy is when they lose a star player in a meaningless exhibition game. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future. Of course there really is no solution to this problem. Sure, coaches can play their starters less in 3 of the 4 games. However, when they do you see more of the back up play. This means a decline in game quality which leads back to point #1 again.
3. Outcomes and performances can be meaningless - I've seen teams that go 4-0 in the pre-season end up having some of the worst records in the regular season. I've also seen teams that go 0-4 (like the Redskins during Gibbs 1.0) and wind up winning the Superbowl. It makes sense that the outcomes don't mean anything. Maybe the 1st team is good and puts up 14 in two series, but the team has a horrible group of 3rd stringers and the opposing team scores 28. Who will be the better team in the regular season? Probably the team that lost. But teams also play the pre-season differently. Some teams play to win. Some teams are evaluating players, schemes or certain packages. Joe Gibbs played the most basic, vanilla schemes to not show his hand. So it really depends on what the coach wants to see, not what he shows the audience is key to a pre-season game. Important to the team, not so much the fan.
4. Scheduling- We get regimented with the NFL schedule. Most games are on Sunday morning and afternoon. You have 1 game Sunday night and 1 game Monday night. At some point in the season (right around Thanksgiving) you get 1-2 Thursday night games. You may even get a Saturday game towards the end of the season and into the playoffs. With the pre-season, you get a boatload of games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It always seems to conflict with my work schedule and is a bitch to get off to drive to FedEx and drive home and hope to work the next day (in my case I live about 2.5 hours away from FedEx). Plus, all the games are late night, so you don't get home until late.
5. By the 3rd week I want real NFL football - The first week is exciting because you haven't seen football in awhile. The anticipation usually starts to wear off a bit as you head to the fourth quarter and are unable to recognize any of the opposing team players. It gets really bad when you can't recognize your own guys. You get to the third game and this is the rehearsal. This is the game that let's you know how good (or bad) your team may be. By the 3rd quarter of this game, you've had enough. You saw the starters and what they could do. Nobody (hopefully) was injured and by now you have a good idea of who is making the final 53 man roster. Real football should be starting next week, right? Wrong. You have to wait two more weeks with one more meaningless game to go through. Yes, it's important because maybe there is just 1 player that is on the bubble that can make or break his career with his current team. Overall, you the fan has to play the waiting game. Most media outlets and even the teams kind of blow this game off as well. So, in the end you get practically nothing out of the 4th game.