After a Super Bowl that gave us more than we could have asked for, a night of blind drinking and unbiased viewing, an evening of "no ways" and "hell yeahs," and one last chance to experience our one true love: football.
You all know what today feels like. For the first few hours, it's like any of the last 20 or so Mondays. You meet at the water cooler, in the break room, or whatever cliche' meeting point you and your co-workers have and you discuss the game.
"Did you see Harrison's interception return?" "Yeah, but it wasn't better than Fitzgerald's go-ahead touchdown." "You're crazy, that was the best play in Super Bowl history."
Then you return to your cubicle and that's when it starts to dawn on you. Just as your mind starts to think, "I wonder how the Steelers will play next week after a game like that..." it hits you.
It hits you like a wet towel in the locker room, like a ton of bricks being dropped onto the sports corner of your brain. There is no next week. There is no next game.
It's perhaps one of the most overused phrases in sports. "There is no tomorrow."
There isn't. Once the chatter about the Super Bowl fades, once every angle has been covered (and revisited), this chapter of the NFL is complete. In a couple of weeks, free agency will begin and the off-season will kick into full gear, which will give us some conversation topics, but not what we need as fans.
For 16 weeks, a few more if we're lucky, we live vicariously through our teams. When things are going well, the sun is brighter and the smiles come easy. When our teams are going through tough times, the alarm clock is a little more annoying and the days drag on that much more.
Whether you're a Lions fan or a Steelers fan, today is the worst day of the calendar year. (Okay, maybe not you, Steelers fans) By the time this week is over, the depression will have fully set in.
As I flip through the channels, I will no longer pause on football analysis or preview shows. Fantasy updates will be a thing of the past, and my jersey will be properly hung up on an actual hanger for the first time since August.
Football is a sport unlike any other. The passion involved is unrivaled in any sport. You have to be passionate to line up and continuously be dragged down to the ground, continuing to fight and scrap away, even when the odds are insurmountable.
Exhibit 1-A for passion in the NFL is the Detroit Lions. 0-16. That doesn't even seem imaginable in today's league. But when you look at the Lions, it was apparent after an 0-7 start that the playoffs were pretty much out of reach.
However, if you look through game film, you will see a team that never quit. They never gave up, and they never threw in the towel. To me, they exhibit the true meaning of the word "passion".
No other sport can bring people together like football. I will miss the Sundays spent in the bar arguing with Cowboys fans. I will miss losing my temper shortly after I lose count on how many beers I've had.
I will miss the pure joy that is felt when my team hits the end zone, or when the game winning field goal pierces the uprights. I will also miss the sting and the gut wrenching feeling that goes along with a close loss.
I will miss the camaraderie in the local grocery store on Sunday evenings after the game is over, as me and the guy in aisle four with the same jersey on share a high five and an unspoken bond.
The NFL has one of the longest offseasons in sports. Today is Feb. 2, and the preseason will start six months from now, in August.
At the time I am writing this, there are 220 days, five hours, 39 minutes and 31 seconds until Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 at 8:00 PM EST; the date and time of the opening game of the 2009 NFL season. I don't know about you, but that seems like an eternity.
So I, like many of you, will fill my newly inherited block of free time with basketball. College basketball is heating up, and the NBA is near the All-Star break. In a few weeks, baseball's spring training will be in full swing and the MLB season will start in April.
Nothing, though, will pique my interest quite like the last 148 days have. I will enjoy the sports pallet I now have on deck, but I will long for those September afternoons.