Here we are in June, summer hasn't officially started and it was close to 90 degrees today in Western New York. While most of me is looking forward to long and eventful summer, there's a big part of me that can't wait for the Buffalo Bills' opener on September 9th against the New York Jets.
One of football's great strengths organizationally is the brevity of its season. The regular season is only four months long, and there are only, of course, sixteen games. The compactness of the schedule makes each game important and even memorable.
The flipside is that the offseason is tortuously long. There's the free agent period, followed by a draft that seems to occur later in the year and last longer every single year. Then there's the OTAs, which I think stand for Overwhelmingly [long] Time Away [from football], followed by "minicamp," which, when I was a kid, always thought was for players my size, and now, as an adult, I find a hilarious that huge, corn-fed football players participate in something called minicamp.And then, halfway between today and opening day, we finally get to training camp. Then we start getting some reports on how players are looking on the field and how the offensive and defensive schemes have changed and what they're working on. And every year we forget that 95 percent of what we read and hear about the team at training camp is irrelevant once the season starts, because we're eager to imagine how good or how awful the time might be.
After training camp, we're then forced to endure the slow and tedious walk through the NFL preseason. Is the preseason still four games? Gawd, the NFL preseason is right up there with the NHL All-Star game and the Great Lithuanian Ring Toss as some of the most unwatchable sports television there is.
It's just such a tease. There's your favorite team with all their best players, wearing your favorite uniform, playing on TV in some big football stadium. And just when that small little football part of your brain is digging in and telling you to get ready to experience this thing you've missed so much, the whole thing gets cancelled sometime in the first quarter. All the good players just run through 10-15 rudimentary Pop Warner-type plays, and let the backups play a meaningless game that no one will remember.
The backups, of course, try desperately to prove themselves and achieve their dream of making, or in some cases, just staying on an NFL 53-man roster. Of course some position battles will be won and lost, some careers will take pivotal turns, but that doesn't mean watching third-stringers trade possessions in vanilla schemes is even watchable.
The Bills' preseason schedule, for some reason, always concludes with a "Battle for Lake Erie" contest against the Detroit Lions. This year, at least, season ticket holders will be spared this special event, as it will be held in Detroit. I hope to write extensively about this historic match-up this year.
Does anyone enjoy the preseason? For me, the only good thing about the preseason is that it means the season is right around the corner, somewhere, eventually, the football will come back.