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Quick Inside Slant: The Preseason

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

redskins

The Year in Review

Sorry we took last year off, but the NSA was onto us and we had to go on the lam. You understand.

Last we left you, we were awaiting the news from the Aaron Hernandez trial (SPOILER ALERT: don’t draft him on your fantasy team), people were legitimately picking the Texans to represent the AFC in the Superbowl, and Carrie Underwood decided if she couldn’t have Tony Romo, she’d open for him on Sunday Night Football. HE’S MARRIED, CARRIE! LET IT GO!

Since then, it’s been a year of drama. And since I know a lot of you out there rely solely on this column for your football news (Hi Nana), I’ll recap the TOP TEN stories of the year that was. Because people on the internet only read lists now.

Top 10 NFL Stories of 2014

10. The NFL drafts its first openly gay athlete. Michael Sam was drafted in the 7th round of the NFL draft as an openly gay player. This is huge news at the perfect time, because Chris Kluwe is turning out to be a bit of a wackadoodle. The good news for Sam and equal rights advocates is that he has the 6th highest selling jersey in the league, proving both that there is a HUGE degree of support for Sam, and that equal right advocates don’t know the percentages of 7th round draft picks making NFL rosters. He may be gay, but the biggest obstacle he faced in making the Rams roster is that he didn’t play quarterback. He was cut earlier this week, but may be a Cowboy by the time this article hits the internet. And yes, the football team, not the Village People character. We’re all rooting for you, Michael. I’m sure this story isn’t over.

9. A punter is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ray Guy was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, finally making a complete team in Canton. There have always been, and continue to be, meathead football “purists” who don’t consider punters real football players. These are probably the same people in charge of installing washers in the ignitions at General Motors. Punters are football players. That’s why they wear a uniform and go onto the field and do stuff. Congrats, Ray. My chances of making it into the Hall of Fame just increased ever so marginally.

8. The Chip Kelly system actually works in the NFL. Pundits pondered whether or not Chip Kelly would be the latest college coaching phenom to lay an egg in the NFL (Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino, Steve Spurrier). Some thought the system was too gimmicky. How dare he try to get a numbers advantage by messing with formations! Are they seriously snapping the ball before the defense is ready? How rude! And why does that man on the sideline keep holding up a huge picture of Bart Simpson? Well, it worked. Of course, with a record setting quarterback in a God-awful division, it’s possible my Hot Potato offense that led Touchdown My Pants to a 5-4 record in the 2003 Parkville Flag Football League would have worked.

7. The read-option is dead. Speaking of gimmicks, all those coaches who looked brilliant for installing this hot new offense that colleges run when they don’t have anybody who can throw the football on their team all of a sudden don’t look so brilliant. Some even look a little fired (I just sent an invite for the Shanahan family to join me on LinkedIn). Apparently defenses caught up to this little game. It’s not quite as stomped flat as the wildcat, but RG Knee can probably speak to the perils of running those fun little “let’s leave one of these huge guys unblocked” plays a little too often.

6. NFL suspensions befuddle fans. Sometimes I feel bad that celebrities today have every minute of their lives outside their house recorded on somebody’s camera phone. Then I remember that privileged people needing to be moderately responsible for their actions is an acceptable penance for having things handed to you all the time and I don’t feel so bad anymore. Sure, we don’t know what happened in that elevator, but we know what happened when the door opened. And Ray Rice showed about as much contrition as a bag of sand. Sadly, if he had done that while smoking pot, he’d have gotten a 6-game suspension. HOWEVER, since then, Goodell has come out and said that they got it wrong, which is something unprecedented in my admittedly limited memory of NFL history. Good for them. Even if they only did that because of the public outcry over the NFL’s lack of remorse regarding domestic violence – specifically against women – and not because of an inherent desire to do the right thing. But hey, baby steps.

5. Peyton and the Broncos set a record for offensive production. The interception Peyton threw against the Ravens in the playoffs two years ago left a bad taste in his mouth. Unfortunately, he washed that bad taste out with a bitter grande latte of Seattle’s Best. The Broncos scored more points than anyone ever in a season and Peyton became the first person to throw for 7 TDs in a game in just under 44 years. (And then Nick Foles became the first person to do it in just over 44 days.) This fantasy football wet dream team unfortunately forgot that you technically need to win the Superbowl to be considered the champions. Their first snap of the game went whizzing by Peyton like the ball was an afterthought. And the rest of the game seemed like an afterthought after that. That certainly didn’t help his reputation for being a choke artist in big games. He’s like the anti-Eli. I can’t believe I actually used that term in the pejorative.

4. There are bullies in the NFL. Well, this isn’t so surprising. But after Jonathan Martin left the Dolphins because he felt he was being bullied – largely by fellow lineman Richie Incognito – terms like “mental health” and “workplace environment” were being discussed for the first time in relation to the league. And it was cool, because I could relate. I mean, who hasn’t had a coworker that you wish would stop texting you about the different ways he’s going to kill you? Honestly, I just read the report for this article. It’s disgusting. I can’t even bring my fingers to type out the lewd – even by NFL standards – texts and voicemails that transpired. Anyway, it crippled the Dolphins season and allegedly changed the way some things are done around the locker room. Moving on.

3. Richard Sherman turns a game-saving play and a post-game rant into the greatest marketing opportunity of all time. OK, maybe not all time. There’s only one reason I know Brandi Chastain and it’s not because of her soccer commentary. Richard Sherman made a heck of a play to seal the NFC Championship and then attempted a disingenuous (or authentic) handshake with his nemesis, Michael Crabtree, and then went on an emotional (or calculated) and flailing (or intellectual) tirade that launched him into stardom weeks before he would win the Superbowl by 97 points. He made it onto Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in the World alongside Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai. His rant was his foot in the door and everything after that was genius. Whether a calculated popularity stunt or a lucky break, he got through that door and can now afford to just be himself. Man, I can’t wait until I can just be myself again.

2. The Washington football team name is under heavy fire. Along with this new avalanche of tolerance sweeping the nation came a heavy, stadium-sized snowball directed at the “Redskins” name. It appears that naming your team a racial slur, even if it’s been around for a long time and it’s really only a slur against a very small percentage of people, is unacceptable to some factions of people now. I feel bad for Daniel Snyder. He inherited this team during a time when being racist was OK. It’s kind of like when I found out that once dogs moved out, they never got to see their mommy again. I cried for a week. OK, it’s actually very little like that. I take it back. But it’s still an issue that’s not going away. It keeps poking its head up through the DUIs and marijuana suspensions to get some air. The National Congress of the American Indians made a really emotional and compelling commercial to plead their case. The “Redskins” even lost their ability to protect their trademark, which apparently means something. And they even made me feel the need to put the team name in quotes, when I’m not even sure if it would offend people more or offend them less. I’m hoping less. In fact, I recommend that Riley Cooper use air quotes when saying the name, just in case.

1. Banging your head against someone else’s head 70 times a week apparently causes head injuries. OK, I think we all knew that. But the level to which the NFL tried to cover up this fact is astounding. And it’s probably because if the greater public knew what the NFL knows, parents would stop letting their kids play football. PBS aired a documentary called League of Denial that exposed the NFL’s secrets and lies about when and what they knew. It’s worth watching just to see the zombie-like race for brains between the NFL’s hit men and the scientist the league threw millions of dollars at to discredit. A year ago, when the NFL was making up these ridiculous, unenforceable rules to deal with head injuries (or once again, the perception of dealing with it), I thought it would be better to just come out and say “football hurts,” and let them play the game. Now – well, I still do. But not as much.

There you have it, Nana. That’s what you missed while we were shacked up in an A-frame in Nova Scotia without cell reception for the last 12 months. It was exciting. But not as exciting as this season is going to be now that we’re back. Will defenses catch up to Chip Kelly? Will Michael Sam find a team? Will Trey Wingo stop bastardizing the word “literally?” I don’t know either. That’s what makes it worth watching. Let the games begin!

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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