Five For Friday: Welcome back, NFL. You bastard

(The NFL is back.  We don’t want to be happy, but we are.  Here’re some reasons why.)

Tyler: The Bengals’ revamped offense

The Bengals will not be good in 2011, or in any year of the foreseeable future, but watching talented Andy Dalton get to know his receiving corps–Jermaine Gresham, Jerome Simpson, Jordan Shipley and enormous monster freak #4 pick A.J. Green–should be a lot of fun.

Nathan: Best schedule structure in all of sports

Yes, the NFL is very easy to follow. Many games are on TV, and they all happen in clusters. There’s a sense of anticipation week to week that no other sport manages. Drama builds in the intervals due to high expectations; each game really, truly means something.

Travis: The Rams have a good quarterback!

Sam Bradford actually turned out to be a great first pick. Watching to see him improve into hopefully a standout quarterback in the NFL is enough to make this Rams fan excited again, and playing in the woeful NFC West, the Rams have as good a chance as any of making the playoffs this year for the first time since some of the Greatest Show on Turf pieces were still in place.

Tyler: Lunatic quotes

“Playoffs?!?”  “You play to win the game.”  “They are who we thought they were!”  “It’s not funny!”  “Don’t talk to me, alright?!” “We just got our ass totally kicked.”  “That’s my teammate.”  “CAN’T WAIT.”

Nathan: Easiest sport to follow, because the only TV station I get happens to be a FOX affiliate

I love hockey, but I don’t have Versus, and I’m not paying the bar money to go see some random game that has nothing to do with the Red Wings. I can watch football for free because I get the right station in. Yes!

Travis: The Hangover Cure

Having moved to the West Coast, my first games on Sunday begin at 10AM, which means rolling out of bed, then rolling onto the couch (after Saturday night) to have the games right there, without having to sit through hours of interminable pre-game.

Tyler: Last-second finishes

An ideal football Sunday is not unlike the first day or two of March Madness, with even better and more elaborate coverage.  Even if your team has lost (or is on their way), there should be no lack of cut-into games, full of desperate drives, back-arching defense, and last-ditch field goals with a game in the balance.

Nathan: Insane quotes

Football players are probably the most entertaining athletes, media-wise. Unfortunately, Roger Goodell has tried to put a cap on this. This is one area where I really am glad for Twitter.

Travis: Hating the Patriots. 

Nothing is more fun than hating a team, and there’s no team I love to hate as much as the Pats, so much so that they made me root for the Jets last year. When they can’t “stop a nosebleed” again this year, can we stop calling them a dynasty?

Tyler: Late games on Sunday/Monday Night Football

Whether you’re tired from running your errands, tending your chores, indulging your early Sunday games, or doing your job throughout the day on Monday, there are few sweeter ways to unwind than on a couch or in a sink-friendly chair as a bombardment of highlights and/or fresh game action unfolds before you.

Nathan: The Super Bowl

One of the things that bothers me most about American holidays is that many people don’t celebrate them with a sense of history or meaning. Christmas has morphed into a secular holiday, as has Easter, and Thanksgiving is mainly about having a big meal. All of that is fine except that our celebration of those holidays has almost nothing to do with their intended meaning. The Super Bowl fits America so much better than all of those holidays, because at its core the Super Bowl is absolutely meaningless. It’s a grand excuse to hang out with people, eat some junk food, and watch commercials. If you like the game itself, great; if not, same difference. We always knew the NFL would get the job done, but a February without a Super Bowl just sounds horrible.

Travis: Chris Berman being tolerable.

I may get some argument on this one from the Berman haters out there (of which I am one, for most of the year), but Berman doing highlights of the one sport he actually seems to care about while sitting alongside Tom Jackson reminds me of why I actually watch so goddamn much ESPN—it used to be more like that.

Tyler: Special occasion early games on Sunday

For the twelve days that the Bengals threatened legitimate contention in the late ’00s, it became routine amongst fellow native friends and myself to gather for each game, at some bar that had the Sunday Ticket package.  Age and the Bengals’ inevitable insufferability have crimped this tradition down to a palmful of Sundays per year, and often for non-Cincinnati, actually-important games.  The Bengals may be on and under observation, but they’re secondary.

But that’s the beauty of the NFL.  Even if your team is garbage, it’s neither difficult nor shameful to latch onto a squad you think shows a share of promise, or a young quarterback you hope gets his chance to shine, or a team that seems to have lightning behind them this year.  There’s no American sport that approaches NFL football for communal enthusiasm, especially with a bank of TVs showing all the games in which anybody present might have even a hedging interest.  Fold in a table of buddies, some cheap bar fare and pitchers to share?  That, my friend, is a fine early Sunday afternoon.

Nathan: The remote possibility that the Lions might reach .500 or beyond

Matthew Stafford,

Please, I beg you, do not get injured again. You are clearly a talented football player and you’ve got a decent team around you now. If you stay healthy, we might win 8 games this year, maybe more. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but please, please, please do not get injured. Light up the scoreboard!

Wait, why am I not directing this to the offensive line? Don’t let anyone touch him!

Restore the Roar! Do it for Detroit!

Travis: No Brett Favre. 

For the first time in forever, we won’t have the Brett Favre will-he-or-won’t-he saga. While it’ll be strange not to have every SportsCenter between now and January cut to Ed Werder at the Vikings practice facility or Rachel Nichols (“Eeeeeyessspeee-en”) camping out on Dick-Pic’s lawn in Miss-sip, it’ll be the best kind of strange. Let us miss you, Brett, so that maybe someday someone will like you again.

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