I was reading around the Internet when I came across a mailbag discussion point on DallasCowboys.com. A fan just could not understand why some people don’t enjoy training camp and the preseason. This was an avid fan, someone who genuinely enjoyed the position battles and subtle nuances of getting to know the entire roster better, as a result of the starters not always being the featured performers. One writer for the site agreed with her befuddlement, stating that this was an underappreciated portion of the NFL calendar year. Another writer made a nod to how the entire process could be viewed as a nail biting exercise where star players could get hurt.
Personally, I view the entire NFL season as various steps in a recipe. Each part of the season is integral for the entire league working the way it does. Take one part out and it all suffers. It all begins with the playoffs from last year. The way teams finish sets up no only the draft order but the free agent market as well. Top playoff performers often times are looking for a little extra money that their current team may not be willing to offer. It seems like the further you go in the playoffs, the more rebuilding you have to do as a result of players leaving. Think of this as going through the fridge/pantry and figuring out what you’ve got in the house before you build your grocery list.
Then clubs go into free agency (organic farmers market) and the NFL Draft (big box store). Teams get to try to get all the ingredients to build a winner. You know exactly what you’re getting at the farmers market, but often times you’re paying more for it. The big box store offers you some deals, but often times you’re not sure the quality of the ingredients until it’s too late. The other way to look at this would be buying cans of food from the grocery store with some of them being unlabeled or not ripe yet. You hope it’s the right stuff, or that it goes ripe in time for the meal, but you never really know.
Next comes training camp and the preseason. This is where you’re cooking, and maybe trying out a few new things in the recipe. Not only are you doing this but all the other teams are doing this too, and you’re watching them out of the corner of your eye. Just in case there is something that doesn’t work for you that they cast aside and you may want to pick up last minute. You could ruin some of your own ingredients in this process, but it might be your only chance to get a good taste of what it all looks like and how some of these secondary flavors are going to work in your recipe.
Now it’s the regular season. Your dish is put up against everyone else’s as you go week to week seeing who does a better job with the preparation. If it were not for the preseason you wouldn’t have had time to work out some of the kinks with your recipe. It was a test run in the preseason, and you really don’t want to be second-guessing the ingredients during the season. You needed that preseason to help you
make critical decisions that are going to impact your actual season, for some teams it’s more so than others.
Then the cycle comes full-circle. The season winds down, the playoffs are played and the standings are set going into the draft for next year. I am the sort of guy that likes watching the combine and the draft. I like keeping track of where players go via free agency. I enjoy watching the preseason and the various training camps of teams. I love it because I know that the ripple effect of even the smallest thing can create a huge wave at the end of the season. If you ever get some time I encourage you to watch “The N if L” by Dave Dameshek of the NFL Network. While the segment is a semi-comical review of the ripple effect of a larger event it’s easy to see how even smaller instances can change the football landscape for years to come. That’s the sort of stuff I look for when I watch the offseason coverage of the NFL. Not asking you to like it, but maybe try to understand why some of us do.