The great joy, if you can call it that in these dog-days of summer, is tuning into the last pre-season football games for the express purpose of watching all those players destined to be third-stringers, practice squad guys, or most ignominiously, cut.
For reasons having to do with squeezing as much money from the fan base as possible, we watch, even though the “games” have no actual purpose beyond deciding who gets to be on the final roster come August 31st. All the great plays, the hustle, the endless chit-chat from the local chatterboxes about this and that, is all artifice. None of this goes into the record books. Make an amazing touchdown catch with one finger, return a kickoff from the deepest part of the endzone and return it the full length of the field, throw a hundred-yard touchdown? All very nice and all forgotten.
That isn’t to say if you saw these things you wouldn’t be impressed, but it’s just a rehearsal of sorts. As Allen Iverson so correctly stated: “We talkin’ about practice.”
Nor is it wrong to note that most of the players on this last day of practice football are playing against their backbench peers. Nearly all “A” guys sit the game out, mostly to avoid getting injured in a practice game. Their status on the team, at least at this point in the season, is assured. (If they lose the first 8 games of the season, not so much.)
The only reason, other than being football starved, to watch these practice games is getting to see these guys play at all. Honestly, who pays attention to the guys on the punt team? Come on, really. And that’s not necessarily a knock on the punt team, but outside of the receiver, most of the player are anonymous to everyone except stat geeks. (Do the fantasy guys care either? Just asking.)
Lastly, does it matter at all who “wins” these games? They don’t count, and they are hardly predictive of how the team will perform in the upcoming season. Many a cellar-dweller has had a “perfect” preseason only to fall to earth as so much mind-numbingly bad football. Conversely, teams that go winless in preseason often have fine or productive regular seasons.
As an example, the Seahawks, after 2 less than stellar games offensively: scoring a combined 10 points, came back to score 27 against the Chargers in the last. What does this portend? Only that the Seattle third-stringers, on this particular night, were better than LA’s. As most of the first-stringers played little, the assumption is they’ll be just fine when the real games commence.
We’ll see…at full price.
©2021 David William Pearce