Is NFL Training Camp the Worst Thing in Sports?
"You watch the Eagles game?"
"Nope, not one second and I'm proud to say that too."
That was a recent conversation that I had with one of my friends as I got into his car. He, as I'm sure some of you may be, was shocked that I not only missed the great Mike Kafka but was proud of it. The car ride was a bit quiet and I went into my reasoning on why I not only missed this game, but wasn't going to watch one game of preseason football for the 2010 season, and hopefully every season after it.
In recent years I've grown to despise preseason football. Don't get me wrong here, I love football and I love watching the draft, but I find the preseason about as interesting as the WNBA. Unless you're the Detroit Lions, you usually don't have any good position battles. Sure that nickel corner position battle is a doozie, but for the most part 80 percent of the teams know who their starters are.
A prime example of this can be seen in the hit HBO show "Hard Knocks," where for the past two seasons the big position battle has been full back, a position that has become virtually unnoticed by many since Mike Alstott retired and wasn't stealing touchdowns away from whoever the then Tampa Bay running back was.
I just never saw the draw of training camp and found it to be much like Danica Patrick: extremely hyped up with little value. I live in Philadelphia and naturally the Eagles are my favorite team. I can not tell you how annoying sports talk radio here has become with their "every hour training camp reports," which usually go a little something like this:
"Well the team just got done practicing and no one was injured. DeSean Jackson had a nice catch...and LeSean McCoy burst outside for a nice 17-yard gain."
Riveting stuff, I know. The biggest problem I have with training camp is nothing good usually comes of it. If you're a fan of an NFL team, you usually spend most of training camp praying that your star player doesn't get hurt. Just ask Denver Broncos fans how they like training camp this year. The fact that a training camp can be called a success as long as your team stays healthy is moronic in itself.
The worst part about training camp for me is the actual games themselves. I have no idea how preseason football is for the rest of America, but in Philadelphia it's awful. Our local ABC affiliate gets turned into the "ETN," which stands for the Eagles Television Network.
We get treated to maybe a half of football with our starters and then our awful backups who we all know are bad, but now it's put in front of us so it makes it worse. You end up spending the entire game wondering how the organization could let the secondary get so weak. We also get the amazing commentating of former player Hugh Douglas, whose idea of calling a running play last year was just repeating, "There's that man again."
Obviously, I know that training camp is an essential part of the game. You can look no further than Brett Favre to know how crucial some of these players think it is.
In all seriousness, I know it is important for the younger players and in the case of the Eagles this is the most important training camp/preseason since 2000. With Kevin Kolb taking over for McNabb, it has many Eagles fans curious, with many more willing to watch no matter who's playing quarterback.
I'm not trying to downplay the impotence of the preseason to the sport. But compared to other sports, the NFL preseason has got to be the worst by far. With basketball, you barely hear about the summer league unless there is an injury. Rosters are full of a teams' young players, and a bunch of undrafted free agents who are headed to either the NBA D-League or Europe.
Unless you're a die-hard NHL fan, you don't hear anything about preseason hockey. Hockey players are known for being tough so you don't really have to worry about your star player being out for the season because of an injury in the preseason.
And finally, there is spring training for baseball which is actually pretty good. Most of the time you watch preseason football to watch your teams first round picks and maybe a few mid round picks that you think could be good. With spring training, however, you get to see guys that in a few years your team is really going to count on.
It's one of advantages to having farm systems in baseball. You get to see the stars of tomorrow face off against big league talent and see how they do. Most of the players that will be in rookie of the year conversation for baseball have been playing for their respected clubs in spring training for at least a year.
I understand that I am not in the norm, but I feel like this is an example where the emperor has no clothes. ESPN, along with local media, hypes up the preseason like it's more then backups playing other backups with serious injuries sprinkled in.
Training camp and preseason football can breed false messiahs such as Hank Baskett, Steven Spach, Joe Mays, Marko Mitchell, and possibly Victor Cruz this season. The only reason I named those four players is because quite honestly those are the only players I can remember from years past that played great in training camp and preseason but never amounting to anything.
The preseason, in my mind, has become a joke. I know that Jets fans are worried that Darrell Revis isn't in camp, but I think it may end up being a good thing. Of course, there is the chance that he isn't in shape and hasn't worked out in weeks, but I doubt it. I think he is in shape and more importantly he is avoiding injuring himself in the preseason.
I also think we all remember the year Michael Strahan held out of training camp, only to come back once the season started, and he had a fine year.
So other then "Hard Knocks," I will stay away from watching preseason football. The records don't matter; you need to only look at the Colts preseason record compared to their regular season record. I will instead to do what has become rare and that's ignore the preseason and start watching in the regular season when it matters.
My first view of Kevin Kolb, CJ Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Donovan McNabb, and yes, even Darrell Revis, will be in a meaningful game, come week one. I can't wait for football, but what you see on the field is nothing more then the NFL hype machine.
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