From The NFL Draft to the Super Bowl: America's Obsession With the NFL Explained
Another NFL season has passed. The emptiness felt by many of us football fans is not asymptomatic. We experience painful withdrawal symptoms, which are exacerbated by pathetic bouts of denial.
For us, the countdown to the NFL season begins two seconds after the Super Bowl ends.
Unfortunately, all other sports are a weak substitute for our passion, our addiction.
Our anxiety is calmed only when we realize that the NFL Draft is a couple months away and training camps open only a few months after that.
To football junkies, football's appeal is intrinsic—no explanation for its hold on us is needed and none is expected. However, for the non-fan (a poor, confused soul), our absolute, inexplicable devotion to football demands rationalization.
The benighted non-football fan needs a primer to illuminate the beauty and appeal of game.
Offering one may ultimately prove fruitless, like trying to arouse wonderment of Vivaldi in a deaf monkey, but I do it as a charitable act for the betterment of humanity.
The NFL Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is basically our foreplay before the NFL Draft. Terms like "shuttle run" and "three-cone drill" get us aroused.
Whisper "4.2 in the 40" in our ears, and we become a quivering heap.
It's the only time I think that a heterosexual man is excused for checking out some other guy's vertical and a married woman is allowed to get excited by another man's Wonderlic.
Many of our spouses find the NFL Scouting Combine to be a waste of time and believe that we should have more worthy pursuits, like volunteering at a homeless shelter.
To that I say: "While you're up, can you grab me a beer and another slice of pizza?"
The NFL Draft
"The Carolina Panthers are on the clock."
It's hard to believe that a sentence containing "Caroline Panthers" could bring a smile to anyone's face, but this one does to football fans.
But even as said football fan, I am somewhat baffled by the spectacle the draft has become. I remember the early days of ESPN, when the draft resembled a local American Legion council meeting in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Now, it's a primetime event that spans three days at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
And it turned Mel Kiper, Jr. into a household name (Or is it the other way around?).
Essentially, the reason for our infatuation with the draft can be boiled down into one word: hope. Every fan of every team, sans the previous Super Bowl winner, is looking for that piece of the puzzle that will lead their team to deliverance and, finally, to the Promised Land.
Reality settles in afterward, when a majority of the picks end up being a bust. But that is for another time. On this day, all draft picks are future messiahs.
Football in the summer can only mean one thing: Training camp has begun. A large dose of two-a-days in July for veterans and rookies alike.
Unlike baseball spring training, NFL teams stay around town during training camp. We don't need to fly to Florida or Arizona and get stuck behind snow birds driving to bingo and shuffleboard.
No, our football teams are usually within a quick drive, and many training camps are free and open to the public.
And what can be better than watching 7-on-7 passing drills? Perhaps, goal line drills.
Preseason football is like Michael Jackson's music: No one admits to being a fan, yet millions of people purchase the product.
What other sport has preseason games televised on national television?
We enjoy watching preseason games for two reasons: It's football, and we get to see future stars for our favorite team. Sometimes, we discover a diamond in the rough.
And for Curtis Painter's family, it's the only chance they get to see him play.
The Regular Season
Like the return of a lover that had gone away, the regular season rekindles our romance with the NFL.
In other sports, a three-game losing streak is no big deal. In the NFL, it's deadly. And since the NFL season is only 16 games long, we are not inundated with an overabundance of games that causes us to quickly lose interest.
Nope, the NFL season gives us just enough to keep us wanting more.
Yes, Jim, we're talking playoffs!
The ultimate death match. No best-of-seven garbage like baseball that drags the season on until Thanksgiving or like hockey that makes you scratch your head and say, "Hockey in June?"
In the NFL, you only get one shot (cue Eminem). You could have dominated the regular season, but if you have a bad game in the playoffs, you are hitting the links come Monday (read: New England Patriots).
The Super Bowl
How many of us have fantasized about making a spectacular, unbelievable play in the Super Bowl while over 100 million people were watching?
David Tyree lived out that dream.
Along with Santonio Holmes' catch and Joe Montana's drive, Tyree's acrobatic grab will forever be etched in the annals of Super Bowl heroics.
On the flip side, Scott Norwood's shank goes down as an epic choke and Leon Lett's fumble as bad karma for an extreme act of hubris.
We revere the Super Bowl because it is the ultimate culmination of our pilgrimage through the NFL year. It is our Mecca.
The Super Bowl is an event where gods are made and goats are exposed. It is a testament to the American spirit and our desire for excellence.
Teddy Roosevelt could have been talking about the NFL, and our love for it when he spoke these words many years ago:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Yes, Teddy would have been a fan of the NFL and would have shared our obsession.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some football.