Here’s my ideal Sunday setup during football season: On my couch, by myself, at least two TVs going (one with the Red Zone Channel, the other with whatever game seems most interesting), my fiancee cooking me nonstop snacks, getting up only to use the bathroom, most importantly, no distractions. Complete, laser focus on football.
Sadly life doesn’t always hand me a wide open Sunday at my apartment. Sometimes I’m forced to be in San Diego for a friend’s birthday celebration, on the beach, drinking beer, setting the boogie boarding world on fire with some pretty sick moves. Of course that was also my exact schedule on Friday and Saturday, so I was pretty positive my Sunday would be devoted to finding a bar, setting up shop for seven hours and emerging around 5:00pm looking like Han Solo after he’s unfrozen from the carbonite in Return of the Jedi (trust me it’s a perfect description if only a decent video clip of it existed to prove it to you).
And then two things happened.
- The NFL morphed into one of the least appealing forms of entertainment faster than you can say “due process.”
- A buddy I was with made a very compelling case for skipping the first set of games: “We’re in San Diego. We should be on the beach, drinking beers and setting the boogie boarding world on fire.” He had a great point.
The only reason I even considered it is because for the first time in my life I thought maybe the NFL didn’t deserve my loyalty. Maybe a few million people like me all around the country would have the same thought and quietly, subtly boycott football even if just for a few hours.
Before I go feeling all honorable and shit, I should remind myself that had the choice been between watching football or going apple picking with my fiancee, I would never have considered missing the games. But a perfect beach day in San Diego?
After a while I started thinking about a book I haven’t yet written but I’ve been noodling on for years. It’s centered around doling out advice for my future kids, and one chapter was going to cover sports…Specifically my recommendations on rooting for sports in a world where every athlete’s dirty laundry is aired constantly. This thought started when all the steroid bullshit in baseball dominated the news. And my thoughts always came back to telling my kids that they should root with intense passion for whichever teams they choose to love (and it better be the Boston teams if they don’t want a good whupping…what? too soon?)…but not to get too attached to any individual players from a role model / good guy standpoint. Maybe always keep them a notch below true heroes in their minds. Root for the name on the front of the jersey (very cliche but it’s never been truer). Root for the competition, the beauty of the games, the privilege we have to watch the best athletes in the world compete at a level we can’t even comprehend.
(Side Note: It may seem weird that I’m collecting ideas for a future book, but that’s the writer’s mentality. We spend lots of time thinking of things like “advice for my yet-to-be-conceived son” and writing it down. It also means if you think I consider you a good friend, it’s very likely that I’ve already written a eulogy for you. You never can be too prepared.)
At 9:40 on Sunday morning, there I was in a bar on Mission Beach in San Diego, a tallboy in one hand and an iPad in the other (I always go full nerd during football).
I chose to keep loving the NFL for the reasons I’ve always loved the NFL. The game itself, the way it brings people together, the way it sparks endless debates among those same people, the beer and fried food.
And my decision paid off just like I expected. During those few hours of watching football and ignoring the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald noise, I met a fellow Patriots fan who commiserated with me over our fantasy teams (and our shared real team). I met a Bengals fan and we drooled together over the crazy talent of A.J. Green (though it wasn’t on display this past Sunday, sadly). I met a Dallas fan and the Patriots fan & Bengals fan joined me in laughing at him when the Titans started making a mini-comeback against his Cowboys in the 3rd quarter. I got to watch some of the Packers game with a friend who’s a huge Green Bay fan and he couldn’t have been more upset with the fact that the ultimate jinx (me) picked his team for the Suicide Pool and the single largest bet of the day (of course they missed covering by a single point). I got to laugh with some people over the upcoming quarterback controversy in Washington (though we didn’t realize it then that there might not be a controversy at all if RGIII really is done for multiple months). And I got to see some awesome outcomes in all these games. The Browns over the Saints. The perfect Geno Smith pass that was called back because the Jets’ offensive coordinator called a timeout, which he’s not allowed to do, and the ref granted it to him, which he shouldn’t have done.
There was A LOT to love about week 2 of the NFL. There’s always a lot to love about the NFL. And I’m not saying we should completely turn a blind eye towards the crimes that many of its players commit. I just happen to want football to be what it’s supposed to be…an amazing form of entertainment that helps me escape from reality, gives me a fun outlet for obsessing, and makes me feel sometimes brilliant and sometimes idiotic for how much or how little I know about the outcomes on any given Sunday.
That’s why I watch, and that’s why I’ll continue to watch.
Here’s a list in no particular order of the other things I loved about the actual football games this weekend:
- One more time, let’s hear it for the sheer volume of exciting finishes in week 2 (Note: Exciting doesn’t necessarily mean “well-played” or that your team won). Chicago’s 17-point comeback on Sunday night. Then Philly’s 14-point comeback on Monday night! Sunday’s nail-biting wins by Cleveland, St. Louis, San Diego, Green Bay and Denver.
- Tuesday’s water cooler talk about how the refs handed the game to the Eagles on Monday (while conveniently forgetting to mention the ridiculous Darren Sproles performance or the awful Colts play calling).
- San Diego, yesteryear’s “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” taking Seattle, the current “overly cocky team that’s never won anything,” down a peg or two. (I’m joking, I’m joking. Seattle’s won something. They still talk too much.)
- My Super Bowl pick from March, the Eagles, starting off 2-0 in a division that looks even worse than our lowest expectations from the preseason.
- My Super Bowl pick from August, the Patriots, getting an absolutely necessary win in the same fashion as those early 2000s Super Bowl winning teams (great defense, big special teams plays, average offense that does just enough).
- A ballsy Chicago performance spoiling the 49ers’ stadium opener.
- A jaw-dropping Browns home win (their first win in a home opener in 10+ years) to put a Super Bowl favorite, New Orleans, in an 0-2 hole.
- The Giants once again trying to fool us into pulling the plug on their playoff chances, only we’re smart enough to know they’ll only be two games back with three weeks to go later this year and come ever so close to sneaking into the postseason.
- Amazing individual plays like C.J. Spiller’s 102-yard kickoff return, Ted Ginn Jr’s 71-yard punt return, one-handed circus catches from Brandon Marshall, Kelvin Benjamin and Rueben Randle…and many more awesome efforts from guys who don’t currently have pending criminal charges.
- I eked out an 8-7-1 record against the spread.
- I went 1-2 in my fantasy leagues.
- Exactly two of my playoff picks have gotten off to a 2-0 start.
- Injuries all over the place affected real teams and fantasy teams…Jamaal Charles, A.J. Green, Robert Griffin, DeSean Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram and Carson Palmer.
OK, fine. Those last four bullet points sucked. But I only want football to suck because of something that happened on the field or because of some awful decision I made with my gambling.
There’s plenty of craziness to “ruin” a week of football in the funny, harmless way. We don’t need our favorite sport ruined by criminal acts, the people in charge who cover up those criminal acts, and those people who cover the sport who feel the need to exploit those criminal acts for ratings and clicks.
For those of us who can truly ignore all the negatives, we’ll be treated to another incredible set of games in week 3. I’m counting a minimum of seven intriguing games with Denver at Seattle being the main event by a long shot.
Week 3 picks coming on Thursday.