I admit it. I am a pro football junkie. When the NFL Network introduced the "Red Zone" I thought I died and went to heaven. After covering the Patriots for over 20 years, I have seen it all. Sitting in a press box is not like sitting in the stands, and it's definitely not like sitting at home. The best part of "being there" was running on to the field after a big win and interviewing players in the heat of the moment. Asking Lonie Paxton about his snow angel just feet from where he made it - now that's a moment.
When the days get shorter, the leaves turn colors and the air cools down- there is no better sport than pro football.
Here are my top 10 reasons.
1. One game a week
Unlike the other pro sports that have either 82 or 162 games per season, the NFL offers only 16 regular season games. This means every game is a huge game, and every game is worth watching. Light a fire in the family room, make the Mexican dip, grab a cold one, and watch football. That's my idea of a perfect Sunday.
Sunday afternoons watching football have become a household ritual. It is also one of the few times when parents and kids will watch the same thing. My kids knew Drew Bledsoe was the Patriots quarterback before they were in preschool. They also learned what a Cheesehead was before they knew about the state of Wisconsin. The year was 1997 and the Patriots were playing the Packers in Super Bowl XXXI. I have home video of my daughter saying the Patriot’s coach is a "Big Tuna."
As the kids got older, the parents figured out watching the Patriots on a Sunday afternoon sure beat the heck out of standing on soccer fields all day Saturday. Burgers on the grill in the good weather, chili when it got cold. Your house or ours? And there is NO TALKING except during commercials. Chatty girlfriends were warned in advance, “We need to hear the play by play. Non-football related chit-chat will not be tolerated.”
I love hockey live, but football is by far better made for television. Both are violent sports with great speed and high impact, but football lends itself to a television audience better than any other game. With 15-20 cameras all over the field, we see every angle on replay. Last week I "heard" the football hit the crossbar in the Niners/Packers game like I was sitting under the goalpost. The first time I was on an NFL sideline during a game, I could not believe what a full speed, helmet-to-shoulder pads collision "sounded" like. With improved technology and boom microphones all over the field we not only see the game; we can "hear" it too.
5. Build up
Because the teams play only once a week, we get at least four solid days of pregame hype. By game time we can recite the story lines for the afternoon. Trash talking is strictly prohibited in some locker rooms and encouraged in others. The media naturally loves trash talking, and will try to bait the players all week. Few Patriots players ever took the bait, although Rodney Harrison was always good for a "knock their heads off" quote. The networks have become masters of weaving in the story lines before and during the game, so it makes it even more fun to watch a game on TV. You want reality TV? I'll take the NFL over Survivor any day.
Patriots/Jets. Packers/Bears. Giants/Cowboys. Classic.
There is always food involved when watching football. Do we order in pizza and chicken wings for a baseball, basketball or hockey game? No. A typical Sunday diet during football season includes grease, carbs, and enough salt to make you float away. And from experience I know that it’s not just at home where the feeding frenzy is happening. NFL press boxes across America serve up three course pre-game meals, hot dogs, huge soft pretzels and cookies at halftime, then finally pizza at the end of the day as writers furiously work to make their deadlines. Pass the Pepto.
As much as I love my wine, football goes with beer. A noontime bottle of suds is the way to go. Chardonnay does not cut it. For one thing, wine causes late afternoon sleepiness that can totally inhibit watching the primetime game on NBC (although after 6:00, switching to wine is not a bad way to go).
Have you ever noticed that the lawn mowers go silent for a few hours on Sunday afternoons in September? If you are a shopper and not a fan, it is by far the best time to go to the mall. I had to run to the grocery store at half-time once, and the place was a ghost town except for the employees (I updated them on the score). People plan their day around the game. If it ends at 4:00, the stores are busy at 4:30. If it starts at 4:00, the rush is between 2:00 and 3:00. Really, you can set your watch by it.
Last but not least: this is America and we love our football. I like the anthems, the flyovers, the Minutemen in the Patriots end zone. I even like that fireman dude we've been watching forever at the Meadowlands. J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. The Lambeau leap, end zone dances, Hail Mary passes, and massive sacks. Snow games, mud games, wind chill and wind factor. Whatever the weather brings. This is FOOTBALL- not even Mother Nature can stop it.
When I was in Dallas two years ago for the Super Bowl, a nice gentleman approached me in a store and asked, “Are y’all here for the football game?”
I said, “I sure am!”
He then said to me, “You know, I like baseball better. It’s a ‘cerebral” game. It’s all about anticipation, knowing the next move. Football is a “social” game. Fans “react” they don’t think ahead. Y’all can miss a play, then watch three or four replays. Oh, and by the way, all the ladies can be yakking in the kitchen and run out like they didn’t miss anything.”
And then I understood. I admit it. I am social. I am without a doubt the reactive type. And I have never been accused of being cerebral.
Thank God, because I love the NFL!
Sunday at 1:00 is the best time of the week. How many hours until kickoff?
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