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Quick Inside Slant: The Preseason

Impressions of the 2015 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

Steelers vs. Patriots

First of all, I would like to apologize to all my readers out there, but I must issue a correction regarding my last article about the Tom Brady appeal. It appears that my Nana does NOT get all her football information from this column. She let me know that she in fact knows all about Judge Berman and the Deflategate investigation and reads the sports page every day. I apologize to all of you for being less than truthful. With that exception, the rest of the article was completely factually accurate, as far as I know.

I watched a lot of preseason games this year for some torturous reason. Usually I get all excited, clear the DVR for tons of NFL Network replays, and then watch 10 minutes of the Hall of Fame game and remember that it’s just a really over-hyped practice. But this year, I am stuck in bed with a baby who can only sleep at night if he’s constantly kicking me in the ribs, so I tend to watch a lot more television in lieu of sleeping.

The point that I’m so obviously trying to make is that the preseason revealed a bunch of interesting stories I’m looking forward to seeing over the course of the season. Thirty-seven to be exact. But as an homage to the great David Letterman, here are the Top Ten for your organizational pleasure.

10. Peyton Manning is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, according to people who can’t see trophies. He is now four years removed from the neck surgery that cost him an entire NFL season and got him run out of Indy for a younger, more bearded version of himself. But last year, there were questions of his arm strength and he tore his quadriceps. So will this be the last of the best of the Mannings? At least if he hangs it up, he’ll have more time to do commercials, which is his real wheelhouse.

Geno Smith9. Who will punch Geno Smith in the face next? It is rare that I’ve heard of someone so universally despised. From the sound of things, it doesn’t appear that his coaches or GM or teammates stood up for him when he got his jaw broken by a now-unemployed linebacker. Can he rebound in the locker room and find a friend or two in that organization? At least this move increased Brandon Marshall’s fantasy value.

8. Optics. It’s all about the damn optics. For some reason this off-season, all announcers, analysts, and reporters started using the word optics. I’m flipping sick of it. “If Greg Hardy is on the field, but Tom Brady is still suspended… I have a problem with the optics of that.” That’s not even really what that word means, but OK, I get it. Still, just say “That doesn’t look right.” You’ll sound more like a person and less like somebody trying to win a talking contest. At least that’s what I feel about the audibles of that word.

7. Tim Tebow was so close to actually being in the league. He was competing with Matt Barkley for a job as the third-string quarterback in Philly, and with Chip Kelly at the helm, who the hell knows what he’d have Tebow do there, but I’m sure there’s something. Then, as if straight from heaven, Barkley was traded to Arizona, and the job looked to be Tebow’s by default. Hallelujah! Then, the Eagles decided they were only keeping two quarterbacks. It’s just like if the girl you liked in high school was trying to pick between you and some other guy, and then the other guy got a girlfriend. But then she left you anyway. For Mark Sanchez. Yeah, that hurts.

6. Speaking of the Eagles, are they really that good? I mean, they looked damn good in the preseason. Granted, it’s a small sample size, and it’s just practice with lots of cameras and people around, but man, what a practice! For the sake of my fantasy football team, I sure hope this is legit. And let’s hope that Mr. Glass can keep it together for at least half the season this year.

Tom Brady

5. The NFL once again got caught beating one of their players too hard. Only this time, it was Tom Brady. And he has not only a following, but a few rings and certain skin color. Brandon Marshall already spoke out saying he believes that white players, especially quarterbacks, are treated differently. TJ Ward said he was suspended because his name isn’t Tom Brady. Greg Hardy, who had his 10-game suspension for throwing his girlfriend down onto a couch full of guns reduced to 4 games, is thinking about appealing just because the NFL players are on such a win streak right now. The backlash for going after Brady without compromise has already started. What will become of the Ravens’ role in all this? The Colts? Will they be branded as tattle-tales within the league? How far will the league fall from this new botched investigation? And now, reports are surfacing about the mishandling of Spygate. Well, Roger, you wanted to dig. But once you start digging, the ground around you starts to weaken. Have fun!

4. The extra point experiment seems to be a rousing success. That is, of course, if you were in favor of seeing pro bowl kickers miss the heretofore easiest play in the game. I’m not sure if people will start to go for two more often – possibly only teams with really bad kickers – but I certainly won’t be fast-forwarding through the extra points and kickoffs anymore (I have kids, so yes, I watch the games on the DVR).

3. How will Seattle rebound from that tragic Superbowl loss? Fortunately for them, Deflategate has taken so much of the spotlight, I barely even remembered the joke that they were back in February. I’m sure they appreciate that, especially Marshawn Lynch, who isn’t the most receptive to media attention. And I’m curious to see how they bounce back from such a tragic end to a season. The same with Dallas, after that Dez Bryant non-catch and Detroit after that strange pick up of a pass interference flag. Can these teams make it back there again? Or will Philly just run through the league like tinfoil, as the optics say they will?

Fantasy football 12. I’ve never seen an actual dumpster fire, but I can’t imagine it would look too different than what’s going on in Washington. Whatever I said about Geno Smith goes triple for RGIII. I don’t even think he’s allowed in Subway anymore. Even before his benching, both Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe were going ahead of him in mock fantasy football drafts. The thing that makes this story particularly weird is 2012. I’ve seen some highly drafted busts like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell. But never have I seen a guy be so good one year and spiral downward so far so fast. He can’t have gotten that much worse, can he? Do people really despise him so much, they refuse to work with him? Jay Gruden was supposed to be the coach that Snyder got to get RGIII on the field after Shanahan benched him. Compared to this guy, Geno Smith looks like Daniel Tiger. I’m just thankful I only live here and don’t have to root for them to try to win.

1. How will Tom Brady and the Patriots react? Are they going to go all scorched earth again like they did after the Spygate allegations? Going for it on fourth down in the fourth quarter while winning by 30? Man, I hope so. Goodell has turned them into sympathetic figures through his own brand of industrial justice, though information is now surfacing about Spygate that could turn even the most loyal of fans. Did they seriously sneak into locker rooms and steal playbooks? And Goodell covered that up? Man, this league. You can stop watching As the World Turns, The NFL is back and that’s all the drama you need.

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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