Sunday, August 18, 2013

Welcome to NFL preseason: where injuries and hysteria happen

During the Denver Broncos preseason loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the place to be was twitter. The reason? All manner of hysteria, overreactions, hyperbole and hyperventilating ruled the night. It became a bizarre spectacle of people knowing that NFL preseason means absolutely nothing, yet treating the game like it was the end of the world.

There is a bizarre dichotomy that arises every year that is a fascinating case study for anyone who is into the social aspect of society. The NFL, and its affect on emotions is the ultimate litmus test for those who want to study emotional exaggerations and group-think.

Here is one example. Nearly all NFL fanatics will painstakingly tell you, with much detail, how preseason games absolutely do not matter. Then they will say that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning often has losing records in the preseason, with the Indianapolis Colts, and then have an amazing regular season. They will say that there is no actual game-plan and that everything teams are running are instinctual position jockeying.

Then when these glorified practices don't turn out well (such as Saturday night's injury filled 40-10 loss to the Seahawks) they will tell you how these preseason games absolutely do matter and how everything is falling apart at the seams. They will scream hysterically, calling everyone hypocrites and pretty much become a mouth frothing lunatic.

You say to them, "But, I thought these games didn't matter."

And they will shoot back at you, "You are an idiot if YOU DARE think that what we saw on that field is acceptable! I want heads to roll!! NOW!!"

Aaaaaand the cycle of perpetual hysteria marches on.

You can point to the relative paucity of NFL games that contributes to this ridiculous preseason mind set, but you can also say that with ridiculous expectations comes ridiculous preseason reactions. So it's understandable even though it is infuriating. You take the hyperbole as par for the course, people feel better if they feel they are the first ones to get in and proclaim the sky is falling because, in reality, they aren't in control of the situation. I found myself doing that on a couple occasions on Denver Stiffs this summer as the Nuggets off-season went from bizarre to absurd. Fans are emotional and can't be expected to have completely consistent reactions at all times.

However, one troubling aspect of the Broncos preseason loss to the Seahawks was the injuries. Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe suffered a cervical spine injury during the game (very scary but tests that came back negative were encouraging), offensive tackle Louis Vasquez tweaked his knee, wide receiver Wes Welker hurt his ankle, cornerback Champ Bailey was seen in crutches and a boot after the game ... and Manning took a very big hit while in the pocket. This all leads me to wonder: why? Why do we have these ridiculous, asinine, meaningless preseason games where people get hurt?

This isn't like the other leagues where preseason comes with less injury and more of a leisurely pace. In football the chances of getting hurt increase the minute you step onto the field due to the nature of the actual sport. You couple that with the meaninglessness of the actual games and the horrible product that is put on the field ... you begin to understand the greed that goes into these games. There is, quite frankly, no reason for these games to exist. It just serves the NFL's purpose of extracting more money from TV outlets and fans who (for some reason) continue to go see these games.

In the last labor stoppage in 2011, the NFL proposed cutting the preseason to two games, but extending the regular season to 18 games. This was a non-starter for the players union because an 18 game season going full blast will shorten their careers even further. The NFL is perfect at 16 games, but it has these superfluous games that are outliers. What sense is there in extending the regular season when you could just drop two preseason games and really not suffer much of a financial hit?

Far be it from me to say "it's time". I'm just a lowly writer/podcaster in Denver. However, there will come a day when something happens that people can't just ignore. The NFL is already at a tipping point with injuries, concussions and the repercussions therein ... maybe "it's time" to do the right thing and cut two preseason games? It's a dangerous profession, how about playing less games that mean nothing and lessening the chances you won't have these players on the field (yes, I'm aware the Broncos have suffered injuries in training camp as well ... work with me here people).

Meanwhile the complete overreaction to these preseason games will continue. The only thing I can say is, try to take the long view in all situations. It will cause you less stress.

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