In Sports Commentary

The drive to Super Bowl 50 starts Thursday night, thank goodness

10 reasons to be ecstatic about the start of the NFL season

The National Football League begins its 95th season this week, not a moment too late for those of us who gave up on baseball and the Milwaukee Brewers months ago.

Certainly we are looking forward to the next season for the hope-filled Milwaukee Bucks, but it is football that we all love. The game is the overwhelming favorite sport in the country.

According to the 2013 Harris Poll, 46 percent of Americans named football as their favorite sport, followed at a distance by baseball at 14 percent, basketball at 10 percent and hockey at 7 percent. To put that in some perspective, football is more popular than the next three combined.

In Wisconsin there is only one reason why we love football so much: the Green Bay Packers. There is no other story in the world of professional sports that matches the story of Titletown.

But there are other reasons why we love football so much ...

1. Violence

Let's face it. We like to watch violence. Watch as cars jam up passing a wreck on the road. We are fascinated by this stuff. Basketball is a physical game but nothing quite matches Eddie Lacy smashing into some linebacker and leaving him on the ground. We may boo the extremely violent hit, but we watch it just the same. A tackle and defensive end fighting for an inch of ground is unmatched, except perhaps by bullfighting. And there are no swords in football.

2. Brains

I don't know if you've ever had the chance to see an NFL playbook, but it's incredibly complex and only grows more so as coaches search for an edge. NFL players are required to use more brainpower than any other sport by a large margin, with the possible exception of chess and Rubik's Cube contestants. The smartest athlete I've ever known is a football player. Packers Hall of Fame tackle Greg Koch. Meetings for NFL teams are like attending a lecture in graduate school. You can see an example of the offensive playbook of Mike Holmgren's Packers here.

3. Big boys

Basketball players are tall. Baseball players look like normal people. But walking around a football locker room takes your breath away. Everywhere you look there are massive people. They are bigger than pro wrestlers and barely smaller than Sumo wrestlers. On the rare occasion you see a nose tackle in a suit and tie you wonder where they saw all that material and how much longer he can keep that tie tied. It's an awesome sight.

4. Weather

A little bit of rain and baseball is called off. Basketball is indoors. But the weather hardly puts a dent in a football game. Just think of some of the most memorable. Forget the Ice Bowl. In December 1988 the Bears and Eagles played the fog bowl. Offensive linemen couldn't see defensive linemen. In 2008 the Seahawks visited Green Bay in the middle of an horrendous snowstorm. Brett Favre threw for three touchdowns and threw a snowball at a teammate.

5. Parity

The NFL started revenue sharing in 1964 and it is a model of success. The teams share equally in the billions of dollars in television revenue. Every team except Dallas shares equally in revenue from concessions and merchandise sales. The result of all this is that you can't go out and buy yourself a championship, like baseball's Yankees. Your advantage in football doesn't come from being rich. It comes from being smart and tough and having good coaches and excited fans. Other sports should be so lucky.

6. Flip-flops

Football players, with the possible exception of quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs, are pretty casual when it comes to dress. Watch offensive linemen don sweatpants, flannel shirts and flip-flops. No bling. Even in winter. The average football player looks like he's going hunting instead of going to a nightclub. Or to take a nap.

7. Place your bet

It's easy to be on football games and there is an incredible amount of information that's available. There are entire magazines and online sites devoted to betting on football games. A point spread is easy to follow. Proving that baseball is such a simple game, betting on the game is a moneyline bet, meaning you only bet on which team is going to win. Football betting requires diligence.

8. Fantasies

Fantasy Football has become an industry unto itself. It is a billion-dollar industry and dwarfs any other fantasy sport. There are almost a dozen different kinds of leagues but each one gives a player a chance to be the general manager of a football team. It's easy to follow during the season and the money you can win is sizable.

9. 16 games

You can see your favorite baseball team 162 times a year. You can see your favorite basketball team 82 times a year. In football, you get 16 games. That is 16 very special days. Families make plans to watch and celebrate together each of those 16 days. Nobody dares schedule anything during the games. Stores are empty. Traffic cops twiddle their fingers.

10. Super Bowl

There is nothing like it in the world of sports. One game, winner take all. A build-up of two weeks where everything is analyzed to death. A normally spectacular halftime show, which this year features Metallica. Parties, television specials, more parties, stupid questions, stupid answers, things that matter and things that don't matter. And then, finally, they actually play the game. This game is so big that the one played in February 2016 has been changed from Super Bowl L to Super Bowl 50. Huge.

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Talkbacks

crackerbat | Sept. 21, 2015 at 11:47 a.m. (report)

#1 surprises me.. I coulda swore you have ranted on ice hockey in the recent past :|

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