I love preseason.
And I hate it.
I love seeing my team storm the field in full battle gear for the first time in eight long months, pouring through the smoke and thundering bass grooves and prehistoric roar of a well-lubricated partisan crowd.
I hate being reminded, around midway through the second quarter, that I don't know who a lot of the guys wearing those colors with unfamiliar numbers are...and that a lot of them won't be around in a month so how well or badly they do out there really doesn't matter.
I love that a week from tomorrow on Friday the 13th (hmm), I will get to witness the beginning of a new era—Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, Trent Williams, the 3-4 defense.
I hate that I really won't. The "New Era" won't truly begin until September 12 when the Dallas Cowboys come to town.
I love that I will get my first taste, my first peek at what this new Redskins team "looks like" in action.
I hate that while getting that peek, how they play—good, bad, or indifferent—may or may not have anything to do with how they look come September 12.
I love that we will have actual football to talk about again. Was it a bad pass or did the receiver run a lazy route? Did the rookie left tackle get smoked inside by the defensive end or did the guard blow his assignment, pulling right instead of taking the away the inside rush lane? Did the corner get toasted one-on-one on a simple fly route or did the safety bite on an average look-off by the quarterback and blow his deep coverage?
I hate that many will treat each and every one of those actual football things as surefire portents of things to come. That the player in question is either a can't-miss Pro Bowler or simply can't play. That the new system is either money or fatally flawed. That the new era is either headed for dynasty or the new regime will be looking for work come January.
I love that if the offensive line looks great next Friday night, it might mean Shanahan/Allen really do "get it" and have taken a solid first step toward reversing the criminal neglect the organization paid to the line of scrimmage for the past decade.
I hate that it is also entirely possible that if the line looks great it might be because the Buffalo coaches used the first "live" outing of the year to do to their defensive line what former Redskins defensive guru Gregg Williams did to his secondary on occasion—throw them out there with no protective strategy or help just to see how they react when they get publicly flambeed.
I love that if Donovan McNabb looks sharp, has time, moves well and seems to find the open man on key throwing downs, it might mean he's still "got it," that new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's schemes work and that it's going to be sweet to see a Redskins offense score in the 20s more than once a month again.
I hate that it could also mean the Bills' defensive coaches aren't pressuring McNabb at all but putting their guys back in uber-vanilla zone schemes in order to get some guys on film who are having problems getting their base assignments down.
In other words, they really don't give a damn if the Redskins convert a key third-and-12 because what they really want to see is if the rookie second-string linebacker can stay with the Redskins' starting tight end for four seconds.
I love that if new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense looks like it knows what the hell it's doing—swarming the ball and looking aggressive and organized while forcing three consecutive three-and-outs against Buffalo's "starting offense"—it might be a positive indicator they will be able to slow down Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offense under the bright opening night lights.
I hate that my brain will remind me that Buffalo isn't coming at Haslett's defense with Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense, but Trent Edward or Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense.
And that they won't be coming in with and a game plan cold-bloodedly and relentlessly designed to test the Redskins' nose tackle's Achilles and conditioning, their converted defensive ends' ability to hold the edge, their converted linebackers' comfort level with their gap assignments, the cornersback's discipline against the out-and-up move and/or the safeties' discipline on the double move, etc.
I love that the final score doesn't count; that there is no pressure and no threat of back-away-from-the-ledge Monday-morning-blues. It's a pure pigskin picnic, a chance to watch a little game-type action and form some first-blush impressions of the new players.
I hate that the final score doesn't count...when my team wins.
The off season is just about over—a humble and grateful nod to the gridiron gods is in order.
And with that, preseason football is just about upon us.
I love it.
And I hate it.