Well, I always say it’s not officially football season until a Dallas Cowboy gets suspended, so here we go.
As a football fan, I’ll admit that the opening of training camp and the preseason gets me ready for the season. I will also freely admit that I don’t miss being in radio and television, where I actually had to attend these events and make them sound interesting.
When the preseason rolls around and the crazed fans start coming back, the sports media world cries out for stories. There’s nothing else going on in the four major sports right now except baseball, where half the teams are already out of the playoff hunt for this year, and some for next season as well. If you’re on radio or TV for hours every day, you have to come up with something to talk about and the longer you’re on the air, the greater the chances are that you’re going to say something dumb.
I’ve always called this the “Skip Bayless Effect,” where a guy who’s very good at one thing winds up promoted far past his ability level, and winds up seeming like a jabbering idiot. You can also equate this with Stephen A. Smith, Jeremy Renner singing on commercials, or my entire career.
For the preseason, there may be a lot of big stories in the press, but the realities are a lot more boring.
The Story: Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is still holding out, isn’t even in the country, and is now threatening to miss games.
The Reality: He’s not missing anything yet. For all the talk about “chemistry,” it’s not a deal-breaker. Emmitt Smith held out for two games in 1993, came back and won a Super Bowl and still went on to be a “Dancing With The Stars” champion.
I still think this gets settled before the season because the Cowboys need Elliott desperately, and that makes him the most valuable running back in the league right now. Still, the first two preseason games will make the picture clearer. If the team runs the ball well, or at least close enough to make it financially feasible, this could get ugly. Last year’s contract for Todd Gurley showed the rest of the league there are no good contracts for running backs, as far as teams are concerned.
Story: Browns rookie Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi was basically homeless a few months ago, and scored an emotional punt return touchdown that brought the whole team into the end zone to congratulate him.
Reality: Sadly, this guy picked the worst year to try and make the Browns roster as a receiver since 1987.
Story: Antonio Brown is doing a lot of what we refer to as “Antonio Brown Stuff.”
Reality: Okay, this one really is a story, and it’s led to what might be the weirdest week of the preseason I’ve ever seen, and that counts the time a Hall of Famer stabbed a teammate with scissors.
First, after forcing his way to Oakland, Antonio Brown gets offseason cryogenic treatment without the right protective footwear, and gives himself the best foot-related injury since the great Michael Scott Foreman Grill Burn of 2016.
Then Brown refuses to practice and talks about retirement, just because the NFL won’t let him play with his old helmet, which basically has been phased out because it isn’t as safe as the new models. He actually filed a grievance with the NFL to try and get them to let him wear it, and tried to paint it to look like a Raiders helmet to sneak it on to the field.
Yes, Brown tried to pull of the kind of trickery that only works in Looney Tunes cartoons. And even the Raiders could figure that one out.
The Story: Football is back!
The Reality: Thursday night I watched the Giants play the Jets, and the highlight was seeing Saquon Barkley playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” on the sidelines while eating a Rice Krispies Treat. Let’s ease off on the excitement.