August used to be an endless month of dead time spent sweating and waiting for the NFL season to start. And while I still spend the month sweating and looking forward to meaningful football games, it’s no longer endless. The precipitous growth of two things — online sports media and my focus on the NFL — has turned August into a month filled with preseason games, planning sessions, and late-night highlights binges. Here are all the ways I’ve made this month fly by with football-related activity:
1. Watching preseason games. As I’ve before noted in video form, the preseason is unsatisfying methadone for the NFL junkie. But you know what? Taking football methadone beats the hell out of chain-smoking baseball. I used to find preseason games unwatchable; now I happily watch the second and third teams play to determine which teams have better depth and who might be worth a late-round flyer in my fantasy drafts. And where else are you going to get the humor of Rex Grossman and Brady Quinn playing quarterback? Not in the regular season.
2. Preparing for fantasy drafts. I have now carefully ordered my top 200 fantasy players on both Yahoo and ESPN. Fuck you, DeAngelo Williams. You’re not even on my board.
3. Watching 2012 highlights on YouTube. I’m almost scared to bring this up, because I don’t want a good thing to end. But it seems that the NFL — which has been aggressive in taking down YouTube videos of NFL content and has even sicced its lawyers on people making GIFs — has relaxed its standards in the offseason. The other day I spent an hour and a half watching most of the Seahawks’ Week 16 trouncing of the 49ers — in HD with no commercials. I only stopped watching when I got to this:
Last night I watched a 24-minute video recapping the Seahawks’ season (damn you, Falcons!) and five minutes of Marshawn Lynch highlights. Look at this video. LOOK AT IT.
4. Watching Hard Knocks. If it were up to me, I’d divert all of HBO’s sports budget and funnel it directly into making a “Hard Knocks” series about EVERY team. Take “Real Sports” and CRAM IT, Gumbel. Make 32 documentary series and air them throughout the week, and I’ll watch as many of them as I can. I can find at least one story line I want to follow from every team in the league. Well, maybe not the Raiders. Sorry, Matt Flynn.
5. The United States of Football. I caught a screening of this documentary the other night, and I can’t recommend it enough. Anyone who loves football will be moved to see the lives of players after they leave the league, and how they deal with life facing the likelihood of CTE. It’s heavy, and it’ll make you want to kick Roger Goodell in the dick more than you already do. Here’s the trailer:
The movie was shot and directed by Sean Pamphilon, who directed Run Ricky Run and is perhaps most famous for releasing the Bountygate tapes. If you’re curious about The United States of Football, you can see me interview Pamphilon and former Giants great Leonard Marshall about it HERE.
6. Reading previews. If you’re here, then you know our Prekkake series. Drew’s WHY YOUR TEAM SUCKS previews deliciously fill my hate quotient. Bill Barnwell’s stuff at Grantland appeals to the ever-shrinking part of my brain capable of rational thought (according to advanced metrics, Lions and Chiefs fans should have some hope for this season). There’s so much terrific shit out there, but people still read fucking MMQB every week because they’re terrible at the internet.
7. Planning. When sports is your job, you end up consuming it differently. This is not a complaint: writing and talking about the NFL is something I would be doing for free if I hadn’t faked my way into this industry. But when it’s your livelihood, you approach the sport differently. You carefully divide your tasks up according to the weekly news cycle, hash out ideas for Super Bowl coverage, and try to convince your wife that no, seriously, Sunday is a work day, and I actually can’t be drinking while I watch the games. Much.
8. Learning about, like, formations and stuff. With all this time to kill, I’ve been trying to be less the fan who says, “TOM BRADY JUST KNOWS HOW TO WIN FOOTBALL GAMES” and more the fan who understands zone-blocking and the read-option. The gold standard for this, of course, is Chris B. Brown of Smart Football, who’s recently educated me on packaged plays and the impending awesomeness of a Chip Kelly offense in the NFL.
Hope that helps. If not, then at least there’s this: FIFTEEN DAYS UNTIL NFL WOOOOOOOO