We gathered the other night to watch the Titans-Steelers on NFL opening night, and right after kickoff, a friend said (more or less) "just think -- right now we have the maximum amount of football ahead of us." At the time, tipsy on the joys of football and Heineken, it seemed like earth-shattering wisdom.
I'm overjoyed about the season's arrival, though I don't have much reason for optimism -- if either the Broncos or Buccaneers hit 8-8, I'll be even more overjoyed. In just a few hours, I'll be in the windowless back room of a bar, snarfing down wings and cheap beer, clad in a jersey and acting foolish. Sunday football is just so comforting. It's like the missing element has snapped back into my life. The weather's starting to get bearable and football's back. Months of Sunday beer and wings and shouting await. It's church for us secular types -- and for us secular types, church is FUN. (Plus, honestly, if God exists, you think He isn't choosing to spend his Sundays watching football?)
I'm also extraordinarily pleased that hockey is on its way, with perhaps even less reason -- the Avalanche are one of two teams in the West with absolutely no shot at the playoffs, the Thrashers might have a shot at an eighth slot (thanks, Brian Burke, for your European-hating ways and ridiculous trades). But who cares? I wish that season would follow suit and hurry up and get here.
If football is AC/DC (always satisfying, invigorating, fantastic showmanship) in my life, hockey is Die Kreuzen or Infest (less polished, more intense, makes me want to punch things). I may be in the mood for AC/DC more often but my passion for the other bands is a bit more heartfelt. Like football and hockey, I think! If hockey is hardcore punk, the people writing about it, then, are... the equivalent of Maximum Rock 'N' Roll. That fits too. When I first discovered hockey blogs, they seemed exciting and amazing -- much like MRR did. Now we're in the stage where the whole scene seems to be a bunch of humorless goofballs arguing about internal politics and who's the purest/most correct fan, much as MRR was in the mid-'90s. (This means someone in hockey blogging is the equivalent of Spitboy -- I nominate Red Wings bloggers) The Bug-Eyed Billionaire vs the Jerks is the hockey equivalent of the once-raging major label debate, and about as much fun to read about.
But for the stuff on the ice, I can't wait. I'm heading up to Thrashers camp at some point this week, just to check it out. I'm planning to see a lot more minor league hockey this season, something I've been bad about. I'm even stoked to see how the Avalanche kids do.
(Overseas update: in one game for Barys Astana, eternal hero Tomas Kloucek has four penalty minutes and no points. Meanwhile in the top Czech league, HC Kometa Brno is winless after two games and entrenched in the relegation zone. Pick it up, Kometa!)
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Something I've meant to note for months, but haven't. This marks the first football season in, well, ever that is kicking off without the writing of Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman. He suffered a stroke last year and a few more later on, and while I don't know his current status (apparently the most frequent updates are in Peter King's columns, which I have a deep-set belief against reading) he's obviously not in any shape to write these days.
Dr. Z is, simply put, my all-time favorite sportswriter. Even after two and a half decades of watching football, I kept learning new things and new ways of watching from his weekly column. He was clever, he was insightful, he injected his personality without being overbearing. Z did something that lesser writers can't: he'd go off on digressions, tales of wine or travel, and keep them interesting to people who were just there for the football.
I always looked forward to his writing and while I doubt we'll see more of it, I'm keeping hope alive. I wish him well.