I have two things that I need to get off my chest. Neither point I want to make is really long enough to fill up two separate articles so why not spoil the readers and give the masses a little treat by serving up both points at once. How about the light-hearted part first?
Training camp: I don't get it. I need someone help me out by explaining just what training camp is supposed to tell me because I don't see it as that big of a deal. In fact the only thing I can think of happening during the pre-season that has any kind of impact would be injuries.
Don't get me wrong; I love my team. I take time every year to show up at Hofstra to watch the Jets practice. I look on with admiration, occasionally making the audible sounds of awe when some receiver catches a pass in mid-jog while wearing shorts, but I don't put to much stock into it. I can do that on the weekends with my friends. Sometimes we even run.
For all the time and effort put into covering training camp and preseason games I have come to the conclusion that it is really just a grand marketing scheme, which may be why the NFL is so successful. Think about it, a month of building up the anticipation and excitement of a new season. All eyes are on the calendar waiting for the first day of football to arrive. Everyone all across America holding tight to their chicken wings and their beers on an early Sunday afternoon waiting with baited breath for the first kickoff. The league even figured out how to extend the opening weekend with this new Thursday night game to kickoff the season, very smart.
Because in all honesty training camp and the preseason games are quite useless to us fans. Haven't we all seen teams go 4-0 during the preseason and then lose their first four games, or vice-versa? Does anyone other than scouts watch the fourth quarter of these games?
Then there are the countless articles written about everything that could possibly happen during the off-season. All sorts of information is spewed out. I actually now know what kind of dog Chad Pennington owns. I don't know where I read it or why it was relevant but I know it.
How about I save some time and tell you everything you will see from now until the season starts: We will all read the article about how some veteran player is performing better than expected and will make a great impact on the team. Translation: he will be riding the bench by October. Then we will hear about how not one of the contenders for a specific job has stepped up yet and claimed it. Shortly following that will be the story about the un-drafted rookie who is making some waves and a case to be on the team; he probably gets cut soon after that. Of course there will be the article on the big draftee and free agent who came into camp this year. Depending where you go they are either thriving or floundering. Suddenly we read about how there will be some new wrinkles in the playbook this year that will keep opposing teams on their toes. Finally there will be the final cuts and predictions on the upcoming season. Did I miss anything?
I guess what I am saying is that I just don't take it too seriously. I will have fun watching some parts of the preseason games and getting myself into football shape. My schedule for the preseason is pretty basic. Week one I have my first drink and light snack during a game. I only watch about 20 minutes, just to warm up. Then I try for a little longer in week two; maybe a full meal and a snack. Week three I get serious: three quarters, four beers, and two meals; one of them comprised of almost all fried foods. By week four I just do a walkthrough. I figure I am up to game speed by then. I check supplies and make sure I have all the local restaurant menus. I call my buddies make sure everyone is prepared for the season ahead. Then I make fun of my married friends for not being able to make it out for the entire game. Nothing is more pitiful than when you hear another man say, "I think I can make it for the second half."
Now on a more serious note: Can I rant for a few minutes about something?
I read recently that Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen was fined $200,000 for not interviewing any minority candidates for the then open head coaching position. Now if Millen should be fined for anything it should be for how he has been running the Lions the last few years. The second that your recently hired head coach takes off in the middle of a practice on a motorcycle your judgment should be questioned.
Let us state two facts here, which I am sure everyone can agree on:
1) Matt Millen only fired Marty Mornhinweg after he found out Steve Mariucci had been released from the San Francisco 49ers' head-coaching job. The only reason he came out and made a statement prior to that backing up Mornhinweg was because he figured he had to wait another year to get his man when Mariucci's contract expired.
2) From what the Lions have previously stated was that no coach who was offered an interview and was also a member of a minority group wanted to take part because everyone felt that Millen was going to hire Marriucci no matter how well they interviewed.
I applaud the effort to promote the employment of minority individuals to high level coaching positions. I believe it is a noble and just cause. It is a disgrace that there were only two African-American coaches in the league last year. Having said that though this latest disciplinary act brought down by the league makes the NFL's policy a joke.
By forcing interviews in situations that obviously were not driven by race the league now places suspicion upon every interview ever held in the past and any that may happen in the future as lip service to the league's policy and to the men interviewed. The message Paul Taglibue has created is that as long as you create the image that you had the intention of hiring a minority coach you don't have to actually do it. Because we all know that the Lion's could have interviewed every black man in America and they still would have hired Mariucci. He was their guy from day one.
The league has made a mockery of everything they are trying to do with this recent fine. They insult the coaches who are in place now and create a dark cloud over the coaches who may one day be hired. Hopefully someone taps the commissioner on the shoulder and clues him into that fact. If not than maybe the league's intention to promote the hiring of minority coaches is identical to the pre-season. It is just a marketing scheme that builds hype and gets everyone excited but it doesn't really mean anything.