LOS ANGELES, August 4, 2013 — On Saturday, the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Cris Carter, Dave Robinson, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Curley Culp, Warren Sapp and Bill Parcells are now immortalized in professional football’s house of greatness forever.
On Sunday, after six agonizing months of offseason nothingness, players played football.
This was more than just a preseason Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins. It was the birth of a new season, as passions get reignited and those sapped from offseason boredom get reinvigorated. Most importantly, it was a fresh start for the greatest league in sports history. It was a chance to erase the memories of 2012, perhaps the worst year in NFL history.
NFL 2012 began with a suicide and ended with a blackout. Junior Seau took his own life, and the New Orleans Superdome could not keep the lights on in an otherwise thrilling Super Bowl.
NFL 2013 seemed to begin with the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, but for one weekend, the National Football League was just about football. Perhaps the worst is behind us. The Pro Hall of Fame represents the best of football. Larry Allen elicited laughter at his induction when he told the crowd that he was able to benchpress 700 pounds “all natural.” While another sport is drowning under a steroids scandal, football for one weekend showed its positive side, and not in the form of test results.
Every moment is magnified. After six long months, this was actual football. To some it is “only” preseason, but it is still football.
The soothing sound of announcer Al Michaels reminded us that football was upon us. Joining Al Michaels in the booth was Cris Collinsworth. There were no storm clouds on the horizon. There was only football talk by consummate professionals dissecting the game.
When Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was interviewed on the sideline, real action was only moments away. When Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter sent the ball to the Dallas end zone for a return, we had football.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did not play, but when Kyle Orton handed the ball off, we had football. When Orton threw a perfect pass over the middle to receiver Donte Rosario, we had football.
On 3rd and 3, Orton threw slightly off the mark and incomplete. Punter Chris Jones did his job, and the Dolphins took over at their own eight yard line.
Miami fumbled a handoff exchange on their first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill executed the play properly, but the runner never controlled the pigskin. Dallas recovered the season’s first turnover at the nine yard line. Orton was done for the night, and the third string quarterback was now in. On 3rd and goal at the 3, an incomplete pass to the end zone saw defensive pass interference. NFL 2013 had its first penalty. When running back Philip Tanner barely broke the plane of the goal line, the Cowboys had the season’s first score six minutes in.
Dallas tacked on a field goal, and then Vedoni Holliman intercepted a deflected pass, broke a tackle, and rumbled 75 yards for another Dallas touchdown. In one half of football, the Cowboys had scored in all three phases of the game to lead 17-0. Dallas withstood a rally and scored late to lock up the 24-20 victory, but preseason games are about much more than the final score. A game that began with backups featured backups of backups for the final 57 minutes.
What does matter is that conversations involving the National Football League were once again finally about football.
Even the death earlier in the day of NFL legend Art Donovan did not sully the mood. The Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer was 89 years old, and one of the all time great quotable characters. His death reminded us how much he loved football, and how much we loved listening to him talk about the game he played and loved.
Football is not about halftime shows, cheerleaders, fantasy leagues, commercials, or statistics. It is a game where men battle violent collisions and chronic pain in a quest to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions. In six months the NFL will be playing the Super Bowl in a cold weather environment for the very first time. Metlife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, will host this extravaganza.
Before that game will be four to five preseason weeks, 17 regular season weeks containing 16 games for all 32 teams, three playoff weeks, and one revised Pro Bowl.
The past twelve months have featured conversations about everything but the game of football itself. It is time to get back to debating what makes a great left tackle. It is time to talk about how to block a punt and prevent such breakdowns. It is time to decide whether to stop the West Coast Offense with a Zone Blitz or a 46 Defense. It is time to focus on offense, defense, and special teams.
If everybody in the NFL does their job properly, that is all that the league and fans will talk about in 2013. In the best of all possible football worlds, that is what should be talked about.
Last year was a nightmare for those who love football. That is the past. Tough issues were brought up, and hopefully they have been properly dealt with.
Now, 2013 brings a fresh start. From Dallas to Miami to Canton, the National Football League brought the very best without all the rest. It was not a work of art. Preseason never is. Yet it was still beautiful to the point of perfection because of what it was and is. It is football.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Follow us: @wtcommunities on Twitter
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