As a Bears fan, writer, blogger, editor, Chicagophile, whatever the hell I am, the preseason always presents a particular dilemma when you live in The Grand Borough of Queens, NY and not in Lakeview or Lincoln Park or Lombard. Rarely are the games televised here and when they are it tends to be a half day after the fact. And if there’s anything worse than watching a live preseason game, it’s watching a preseason game replay thirteen hours later.
I don’t care about any of it, not a single snap, but it seems almost every other football fan on earth does. The preseason isn’t just a curiosity for die hards, which is what it used to be before NFL Network and the internet. (Same can be said for the NFL Draft.) The Hall of Fame Game, Bears vs. Ravens, featured mostly men who won’t play a relevant snap this entire football campaign.
It did 6.77 million viewers. Only ten programs this entire summer did a bigger number.
The decisive Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals didn’t approach this number. Now, the only hockey games I ever watch are at the Billy Goat with the Trib’s Rick Pearson and I’m usually far more interested in Rick’s political stories and getting the pickle-to-onion ratio correct on my third burger than Teemu Selanne’s shift in the third period. But that fact is downright insane.
So unless this space is going to return to it’s 2005 traffic patterns – where on a good day one of my brothers might read it – it’s probably best I continue writing shit people actually want to read. Even if I have to come up with ways to amuse myself whilst doing so.
Thus there I was on Monday, staring down the entry fields on the checkout page of NFL Game Pass, debating whether it’s worth $100 of my money to watch 4-5 quarters (maybe) of bullshit, practice football over the next few weeks.
There will be many who read that and think, “But Game Pass comes with the All-22 tape for the entire season!” Let me tell you something. A few years ago a friend of mine, then the head of pro personnel for an NFL franchise, sat down with me and showed me how to actually watch tape. I walked out of that dark, dark room with my head spinning. Watching the All-22 as a fan and thinking you can analyze it is the equivalent of attempting to write a book report on Hugo’s Les Miserables in its original text when you don’t read French. I had no idea what I was looking at. You don’t either. Embrace it.
I’ve done this before, the great Game Pass debate. I’ve thrown a good night’s drinking money into this sports toilet. I swore it would never happen again. But there I was Monday, ready to plug in the numbers off my VISA card, shaking my head and asking my lady cat Bea, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” She didn’t answer. I’d like to think it’s because she understood the question to be rhetorical but it’s probably because she’s a fucking cat.
I put the card away.
Alexa, play Harry Chapin.
Shuffling songs by Harry Chapin…
Hello, honey it’s me…what did the kids say when they heard me on the radio?
I made a pot of Lavazza and did the dishes. Harry sang to me.
But I went back to the Game Pass page. Of course I did. I’m a fucking dupe. I’m like a gambling addict who keeps telling himself this will be the last wager. One more and I’m done.
Oh, wait! Eureka! There’s a seven-day free trial! Okay, that’s something. The next game is Thursday the 9th. Followed by Saturday the 18th. Followed by Saturday the 25th. The NFL is run by assholes, none bigger than its commissioner, but they knew what they were doing by making impossible for me to see two of the preseason games in one seven-day window.
I’d now spent over an hour trying desperately to secure sport’s worst product: the NFL preseason. Games that exist for one reason: to steal money from the pockets of fans.
Tickets should be free. They’re not. And worse, they’re forced on season ticket holders.
Access to the broadcasts should be free. They’re not. Even fans who throw down the hundreds of dollars for DirecTV Sunday Ticket don’t have access to meaningless, practice football. They have to shell out another hundred for out of market telecasts.
The NFL’s argument is these games matter. They’re important. Real fans watch em. All four quarters too! And we’re dupes because we believe it. Fans overwhelmingly watch. Writers fill space with what they see.
But why would these games matter? Why would any NFL franchise show their thirteen opponents what they plan to run and how they plan to run it? Why would any coach put on tape anything he intends to utilize when the games actually count? As an NFL GM has told me, “Our fifty-three is rarely, if ever, affected by the preseason.” So what are we ALL talking about?
Matt Nagy told the press gaggle in the lead-up to the Hall of Fame Game, “You don’t really do any game planning at all for pretty much the whole preseason.” This is a sport entirely about game-planning. These are games devoid of that pivotal element.
And yet as this post publishes on Thursday morning, I’ll still be debating popping those credit card numbers in. And you know what? I probably will end up doing it.
Because you’ll want the content tomorrow.
And I’m a fucking dupe.