Seven months ago, we watched a football game that was supposed to be compromised by the elements. Instead, the weather played no part and the Super Bowl was bad all on its own. The Seahawks blowout of the Broncos was a hard sendoff into the seven months of desolation that is the off-season, but sometimes life and football are cruel like that.
Then, for a while, nothing happened. Oh wait, a lot of stuff happened – just none of it on a football field. There was Michael Sam’s quest to make an NFL roster, Johnny Manziel drunk on an inflatable swan, Jim Irsay getting busted for a DWI with pills and $50,000 in his car, DeSean Jackson getting cut for supposedly being in a gang, Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator, Wes Welker allegedly doing molly, Darren Sharper being revealed as a monster, the NFL acting for a while like it was going to ban the N-word, the NFL actually banning crossbar dunks, a bunch of old owners dying, Le’Veon Bell not realizing you could get a DUI for being high, the Buccaneers producing a novel-length article about Lovie Smith, Russell Wilson randomly getting divorced, the Redskins buying backhoes for good PR and, of course, the league determining that Jimmy Graham is a tight end and not a wide receiver.
Those events diverted our attention long enough to make us forget that the sport we love was still impossibly far in the offing. Some of those events made us despair that they are inevitably the kind of things we have to endure just to be a football fan. Even worse, they seemed like a stream of negatives unbroken by the game that makes those things relevant. Finally, with patience, our reward has come.
I can’t promise you that everything will be great about the season ahead. I know when Week 1 arrives, the unbridled excitement makes people overlook the fact that there will be some ugly games, disquieting injuries, dumb media-manufactured storylines, league mismanagement, officiating controversies and Chris Berman.
But I can promise you that the next five months will be better than the seven that preceded them. Because we’ll have football, glorious football. Oh, and shit-talking, schadenfreude, amazing plays, new tactical wrinkles, new jokes and, thankfully, just a different set of outcomes. The off-season is so long, it gives pundits time to rehash what happened the year before so many times that those events for a while achieve a sort of permanence. That’s why, when a new season comes, a lot of experts have a hard time predicting outcomes radically different than the ones that happened the year before, even though the NFL sees wild swings of fate with each passing season.
All that is here. All sports fans have to put up with a lot of bullshit. And NFL fans put up with more than their share this year. Starting tonight, we finally start getting what we were waiting for. We get football back.