If you could see me in the morning before I dutifully trudge off to work, you would see my impression of Linda Blair when she was strapped to the bed in The Exorcist. Writhing in agony and defiance, strange lumps rising up in my blood stream and visibly travelling throughout my body, bones snapping, head spinning, speaking in tongues.
It's July and I am consumed with football.
I am conflicted. I love summer. I love football. The two are mutually exclusive. I am more amped than ever this year because the threat of a strike is over and because my football season last year was ruined by my job. I decided to become bar manager, office manager and to continue to work 4 bar shifts a week last year at my place of employment. I worked 200,00 hours a week between March and October. Did it for the money. Always the wrong reason. I barely survived it and escaped, a broken man limping and bleeding, into the warm and welcoming arms of the NHSLC. But it was too late. I had no time to get up to speed on football and my brain was broken. I got killed in my football pool. Please bear in mind that I have won this pool twice and consider my good results a point of pride. Even though it is a tiny pool and does not require total football knowledge. I dominated it two years in a row; you have to find something to feel good about in life.
Football came back to life this week. I have already watched a couple of hours of The NFL network and one episode of NFL LIVE on ESPN. And I'm just getting started. 2011 with a vengeance, baby.
The summer/football conflict is not as tense as usual because we are not having a summer. I have worn a flannel shirt in the morning multiple times in July. FLANNEL in JULY. Disgusting. I give up. I am doomed to suffer in the bitter cold of Evil New England until I craftily devise a way to escape it.
Football is in turmoil this week. Cramming a lot of activity into a short time frame to try to catch up. Free agent signings, the opening of training camps, and even the chance to cut players by the end of the week. I believe THE PATS thrive in this kind of atmosphere. They are an intelligent organization owned by a remarkable man and coached by a skilled leader. They are always prepared. They will come out of this whole and kick some NFL ass this year. You have my personal lifetime guarantee.
Robert Kraft. Lost his wife during the negotiations and still he was repeatedly cited as one of the major catalysts towards getting the deal done. A guy who once was a PATRIOTS season ticket holder who beat life down and ended up buying THE PATS. And still understands what it means to be a fan. I truly believe that. I don't think you will ever hear Robert Kraft refer to the sport as "product." Other owners who talk about putting good product on the field make me want to puke. Like Linda Blair.
Cynical types will laugh at the scene of Jeff Saturday and Robert Kraft hugging at one of the press conferences celebrating the end of the walkout. I believe it was genuine. I believe players respect Robert Kraft because he is an owner who's heart is in the right place. I think players know when they are considered team property and when they are considered people.
I am conflicted by the violence in football. I love it, absolutely love it. But the focus on concussions, the stories of retired vets who suffer physically and intellectually, wind up broke, these things put a human face on a brutal sport. I just finished a book this morning called NFL Unplugged. The author was pretentious, I hated the way it was written, but I stuck with it because football is my life. The overall tone of it was painful to read because there were many quotes and stories in there from players I know. I am not a caveman who says hey tough, it's a brutal sport, live with it. But I also don't want to see the game changed to the point where the cheerleaders could play it as well as the pros.
The book did confirm one thing I have always known - there is no other sport like football. None. It is brutal, it is beautiful, it is grace and speed, it is a SHORT season, careers are short and the players do not get the chance to earn what other athletes earn. It is intense, it is unique. Watching it, rooting for your team, makes you feel alive. ALIVE. You live and die once a week for 16 weeks. 19 or 20 if you are lucky.
So that's where I am at. Focused, determined and intense. Excited. Flipping the bird to an ersatz summer and vibing like a tuning fork in anticipation.