Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Confessions of an Offseason Hater

I've never enjoyed the offseason. I was bred a football fan through an endless amount of weekends spent in the halls of Pontiac. The thrill and unpredictability of the game-day experience was enthralling and addictive. As I grew older, my interest deepened. Suddenly it wasn't just a random assortment of physical beings that I was witnessing; it was a classic chess-match between two perfectly trained masses. My eyes no longer scattered randomly across the astroturf trying to catch up with the action. My highly-trained pupils narrowed the field and, at times, I was ahead of the action. This opened up an entirely new game I didn't even know existed. There were formations and routes and schemes and swim moves and chip blocks. The rabbit hole was endlessly deep.

But that endless curiosity always came to a screeching halt the day after the Lombardi trophy was hoisted. My interest never piqued upon scouring the internet for the latest Lions rumor. The offseason provided nothing to fuel my curiosity of the game of football. Sure it offered promise and theoretical championships for my Detroit Lions, but that's all it was: hypotheticals. My friends were always surprised when I failed to get hooked on offseason mania. The one year they finally convinced me to make a first round mock draft, I half-assed it, mostly plagiarizing the first few results on Google.

Little has changed. I still crave for more knowledge about the game, and I still hate the offseason.

My biggest problem with the offseason is that more doesn't happen than does. Every high-profile free agent is cherished by all 32 fan bases and 31 will be left disappointed. Teams are "in talks" about trading for a player until they aren't (and never really were). Even with this season's fairly "exciting" offseason, only two or three major transactions were made.

So when nothing is happening, people are forced to analyze why nothing is happening. The most annoying example of this is the coverage of contract disputes. Coming to an contractual agreement is a slow process that is mostly driven by deadlines. Yet year after year, players are antagonized for failing to quickly agree on a deal, despite the fact that there is little incentive to do so. Fan bases are quick to throw a player under the bus for being "selfish", but when the disputes end peacefully (like they do 95% of the time*) and the ball is finally kicked off in September, those fans' outrage will be long forgotten.

And that brings me to the draft. So much energy is wasted and e-ink spilled in the name of predicting something that no one will predict correctly. All you have to do is look back to last year to see that no one has a clue what the Lions will with the 23rd pick on Thursday. The Lions were 10 positions ahead last year, and I didn't see one mock draft that landed Nick Fairley in Detroit. Sure mock drafts can be a fun endeavor for those who like to think they have the talents that scouts have (SPOILER ALERT: you don't). And, yes, even I have fantasized about being GM for a day hoping that I could have what it takes (SPOILER ALERT: I don't). But does any of that come close to the thrill of an actual game? To me, it's an insulting comparison.

Yet the draft sits a mere day away, and I can't help but feel that twinge of excitement. It's the one point in the offseason where something is guaranteed to happen. All the mock drafts fade away into obscurity to make way for actual events! And I have to say, the NFL has done a magnificent job in making the draft as entertaining as it is. The slow walk to the podium, the Giants and Jets fans at Radio City acting as the immediate pulse of the nation, the elation of the newly-picked and the dejection of the passed-over all make for a television broadcast any film snob would be proud of (as long as Chris Berman is muted). And kudos to the NFL for getting together with NFLN and ESPN to make sure that the broadcast will not tip any of the teams' picks before they are announced, just so us fans can have a few extra seconds of pure, unfiltered anticipation. It is truly an exhilarating event that nearly contests the game-day experience.

Of course, once the new Lions are named, the fantasizing begins all over again. Where will he fit in? What if he's a bust? Can he clean up his off-field antics? How many wins does he give us? Were we 'winners' or 'losers'?**

Ugh. Well, at least we have the next three days.

* I made this number up. No, not the actual number. I'm pretty sure "95%" existed before this post. I mean I made up the stat, because it's not something you can really look up and I think you get my point...

**I can tell you already the answer to that last question is "neither". No games have been played yet. Without a game, there is no winners or losers. The draft is not a competition; each team comes in with different goals. Please frame your draft analysis in a different manner. 

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