9 Reasons The NFL Should Shorten The Preseason
Finally, we’re nearing the end of pre-season football, perhaps one of the most frustrating stretches of any part of any sports season. On some levels, it’s hard to blame the pre-season: the players do need a time and place to prepare for the regular season, and much of our impatience comes from the fact that there’s little else to distract us from the impending regular season. We’re like kids nearing Christmas, and anything that sits between now and then is viewed as an obstacle.
However, there are more legitimate, practical reasons to hate the pre-season, and these less-objective reasons to shorten (but not eliminate) the preseason, far outweigh the rationale for keeping four games in August.
While it’s not a sure thing, and the upside is not without its costs and objections, shortening the preseason by two games at least gives the league the option to extend the regular season. Do we need two more football games? Not necessarily. Does it drastically increase the risk of injury to players over the course of a season? Yeah, probably. But it’s an alternative that’s still more desirable than the tedium of scrimmages and scrubs. Speaking of injuries:
9. More Regular Season Games
Should the players get injured in one of the two extra games in an 18-game season, at least they will have sacrificed for something meaningful. Getting injured in a preseason game offers a new dimension of tragedy, if only because it’s so damn pointless. It’s like dying in war vs. dying in line to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants at a movie theater. There’s just no excuse. Every year a litany of players end their season (or their careers) before they really get a chance to begin because of some happenstance during preseason games.
8. Injury Risk
Sure management can use preseason games to evaluate acquisitions and old talent, but they’ve been looked over before and have resumes, stats, and histories. Preseason seems to be best suited to the evaluation of draft picks and guys on the fringe. These are not the players that fans want to see. So, to the extent possible, maybe engage them in a longer preseason while keeping the older players engaged in only practices and limited-contact drills. At least if a rookie gets injured in preseason (see above), they’ll have done it trying to make the squad. If a solid veteran gets hurt, it’s just a shame.
7. Pretty Much Only Exists for Rookies
This is less objective, but certainly true. The longer preseason creates a longer period to legitimately discuss the NFL. However, there’s nothing to say over the span of four games that can’t be said over two. Or six minutes. The inane conversations about Manziel, arrests, and party buses can be reduced if teams shorten the window. It won’t fix the problem, but it might make it a little better. As it is now, fans get sick of the preseason in early August. Making them endure it for three more weeks isn’t good for the sport.
6. NFL Coverage is Over-the-Top Even Without 4 Meaningless Games to Cover
This might be the most obvious criticism, but also the strongest. No one cares about the preseason. It’s something fans politely deal with because they know that players and teams need to prepare. There aren’t winners in preseason, but plenty of teams can lose due to injury. If the fans are going to politely endure this charade, the least the league could do is scale back the schedule.
5. It Means Nothing to Fans
Players get as bored as fans do with the preseason, and bored, competitive millionaires can turn into a pretty destructive force. So by dragging the preseason out, you’re inviting players to create their own fun, which is a dangerous, dark type of fun. The behavior in preseason games is far worse than that of regular season games, proving that boredom can spawn violence far more than the competitive spark can.
Yeah. We mentioned it before, but putting players in full-contact contests in the preseason isn’t ANY safer than their playing the regular season. The only difference is that the coaches put in crappier players in the preseason. Well, news flash: the health, well-being, and lives of crappy players is just as important as those of the star players, even if they don’t bring in as much cash.
3. Injury Risk (Seriously, It’s Worth Stating Twice)
This is a fun one. Season ticket holders are required to purchase pre-season game tickets at (mostly) full-price as part of their ticket package. Season ticket holders don’t want to go to a stadium in August to sweat and watch players who won’t be on the squad in September. However, they don’t have a choice, because the NFL is the only game in town. So every year season ticket holders sue the NFL under anti-trust law pretenses, claiming that the monopoly the NFL holds on football leads them to abuse their power and force fans to buy something they don’t want. Even if the grounds are flimsy (and they sort of are), it’s indicative that the NFL is pissing off its biggest fans, which isn’t a good sign.
2. It Violates Anti-Trust Law, Maybe, Probably
Ok. The players get a ton of money from their contracts. Yes, they have very short careers, and most of that money isn’t guaranteed, but it’s still a lot. So I’m not here to argue that the players deserve to be paid for preseason games. That’s a really tough argument to make, though the injury risk does help make it. But, putting the players through four full-pad contests while only paying them a training camp stipend doesn’t seem to be very fair. Sure, you can argue that many of these players will get millions of dollars come regular season, but remember that many will get cut, and while the NFL is making full-fare off preseason ticket sales, these players are working for peanuts, only to be cut. Doesn’t seem fair.