It's Not TV, It's the NFL: Why You Should Watch Preseason Football - Rolling Stone
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It’s Not TV, It’s the NFL: Why You Should Watch Preseason Football

It might not matter, but the NFL preseason is still must-see TV

NFL,Bengals, Chiefs

Tyler Eifert of the Cincinnati Bengals attempts to pull in the ball on August 7th, 2014.

Peter Aiken/Getty Images

It’s the middle of the summer, TVs heavy hitters – Game of Thrones, Mad Men et al. – are off cycle, and you’ve already burned through everything on Netflix. So what are you supposed to do with yourself? Go outside? Don’t be crazy.

You could be watching HBO’s The Leftovers, a depressing tale of a world that’s familiar, yet askew. All of the pieces of reality seem to be there, but they’re slightly turned, as if by some invisible force. The players are mere pawns, controlled by beings bigger and more powerful than they could ever imagine.

There is desperation, reticence, pain, nihilism; the show tries really, really hard to make us care, to seem important, to be bigger than it really is (or probably ever will be). In other words, it’s exactly like NFL preseason football.

Sure, it’s football, but it’s being played by guys you don’t give a shit about. It’s a largely inconsequential exercise that the league works overtime to imbue with a sense of import. Are there compelling story lines? Sure, but you get the feeling that most will not deliver a satisfying payoff (especially if you’re a Brian Hoyer fan). Still, you will watch. So perhaps it’s best to view preseason games as replacements for actual good shows:

How preseason football can be your new Game of Thrones

The show so epic it turns even the most fastidious of fantasy haters into dragon-loving fiends. The next season won’t premiere until 2015, but there are still plenty of parallels with the preseason.

For example, both have hundreds of characters you had never heard of before that are suddenly of dire importance: “Wait, who is Tyler Bray and why are they letting him do the most important thing on the field?!?”

Both can leave you utterly confused: How can there be two receivers named Steve Smith and two running backs named Adrian Peterson? How can there by a Tyrion, a Tywin, a Theon, a House Tyrell, a House Tully and a House Targaryen? There are other letters in the alphabet, George R.R. Martin. I mean, can you even tell which of these people is in the NFL and which is in Game of Thrones:

– Odell Beckham

– Chris Ogbonnaya

– Xavier Su’a-Filo

– Bilal Powell

(They’re all NFL players.)

Both have people doing things with each other that seem morally wrong: In Game of Thrones, it usually involves Jaime and Cersei, and in the NFL it might be Jared Allen and the Chicago Bears. “Eww, they shouldn’t be touching like that.”

How preseason football can be your new True Detective

The Bro Duo (or “Bruo”) made a huge comeback in 2014, thanks to the chemistry of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, two cops tracking down a serial killer while also trying to escape the more villainous demons within. Kind of like Bill Belichick trying to hunt down that elusive fourth championship.

And since seemingly everyone is in contention to replace Rust and Marty in True Detective season two, here are some NFL Bruos that could fit the bill:

– Optimistic rookie Jadeveon Clowney paired with the grizzled veteran J.J. Watt, who has to live with the demon known as “playing for last year’s Houston Texans.”

– Tom Brady, as focused on his work as he is handsome, who must now join forces with Darrelle Revis, who spent years on active duty as the one guy good enough to stop him.

– Of course, Philip Rivers as the Yellow King. Wait, no, that was Nick Novak.

How preseason football can be your new Parks and Recreation

Much like the NFL, Parks and Rec has never been afraid to rotate characters quicker than Pete Carroll. You might lament the loss of LenDale White, but, hey, Jason Avant is still around!

Seriously, Avant must be the greatest locker-room presence of all time. Which would make him the Donna Meagle of the NFL. And while Andy Dwyer has become the world’s biggest movie star, he’s probably still contractually obligated to do one more season on the show. Sort of like being drafted by the Buffalo Bills and promising them that you’ll re-sign when your rookie contract is up.

But at least unlike Jerry on Parks and Rec, the league doesn’t have a constant punchline, an emotional punching bag to be batted around at your leisure. Oh, wait, that’s Eli Manning.


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