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NFL:  Dude, it’s about time.      Share

 05 Aug 2010

Millions of Americans can finally watch TV again.  This Sunday marks the official beginning of the National Football League’s (NFL) season.  Annually, the NFL has started things off with what they call the “Hall of Fame Game.”  The game has been paired with the induction of this year’s hall of famers.  I’ll explain that part first.
Each year, the NFL inducts between 4 and 7 of retired players into its Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.  The process is really interesting because nominations are based on fans’ votes.  To actually get into the hall, you have to received 80% of votes from a 44 member Board of Selectees.  This board is made up of sportswriters from each city with a pro football team.  Becoming on the board is like being made a Supreme Court judge because you are there for life unless you resign (that’s why there are more members than current NFL teams).  The jury is still out as to whether the Supreme Court or the Board of Selectees for the Hall of fame has more power. 
At any rate, the votes are cast for former players, and the ones that get 80% of the votes get in.  There are additional rules if things work out that below 4 or over 7 nominees receive 80% of the vote- but that’s decidedly beyond the scope of this article.
This year, the inductees are Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little and John Randle.  Really, the average fan would know Emmitt Smith, a running back that spent most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Rice, a wide receiver who is best known as a San Francisco 49er.  Both played for other teams in the twilight of their careers, but ask anybody what team they played for and those will be the first mentioned.  The other members were really good and belong, but they go a little further back in time.
The week leading up to the ceremony has some celebrations that only insiders really care about or attend.  On Saturday the ceremony is held and on Sunday the season’s first game is played.  All this takes place in Canton, Ohio because the first professional football league, the American Professional Football Association was started in Canton.

The stadium is cramped and the game itself is essentially meaningless.  It normally pits one team from each of the two conferences in the NFL, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC), against each other.  This game is what is considered a “pre-season” game.  This year the Dallas Cowboys are playing the Cincinnati Bengals.  All teams play four pre-season games before the regular season starts.  These pre-season games mean nothing and are simply a way for the coach to prime his team before the regular season starts (or some would argue to bring in even more money to the NFL).  It looks just like any other game to the casual observer, except the starters usually leave early in the game so they don’t get injured.  These teams pay millions of dollars for their star athletes and they’re not about to let them get injured playing late in a game that doesn’t matter.  Most fans don’t really pay attention to pre-season except for maybe their own team.  Die-hard fans will breakdown film of every sneeze of every player in the pre-season.  Don’t get caught up in any talk about pre-season records either.  Teams have won all four of their pre-season games then gone on to be the worst teams in the regular season.  We’d like to think the way a team plays indicates something, but there are so many other things at play in these games, such as trying out new plays or throwing to players just to see if they’ll catch a tough ball.  You’ll still hear commentators do what they do best:  commentate on it.  You should ignore it.
One last thought.  The beginning of the NFL season is a big deal for lots of people.  This game has captured the excitement of numerous Americans across every strata of our society.  There just isn’t another sport that people pay more attention to, pay more money to watch, or pay more visits to the prayer altar over.  Be careful if you’re watching the game or reading this article just to get the basics.  Next thing you know, you’ll be wearing face paint and screaming obscenities at missed tackles and running a “damn draw” on 3rd and 10.
One Liner:  “These teams are so paranoid about their starters, we’ll eventually be playing flag football for the pre-season.”  -- Referring to the aversion to playing the starters in the pre-season lest they get injured.

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