Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cool Your Jets (and any other team) on the Training Camp Hype

This time of year, as baseball season is finally starting to heat up, a shadow creeps across the sports landscape, engulfing anything in its path on the way to devouring the summer with the cold, hard expectations of Fall. That shadow is the football preview season, the 2 to 3 months prior to the beginning of any meaningful game that we all stop tuning into that 8th inning tie between division leaders to see what the latest news is from OTAs and training camp for our favorite NFL team.

I have spent season after season ingesting all the up-to-the-minute news of who is doing well at what position, what rookie free agent might become our third string safety, or which quarterback will get to start the season before disappointing miserably and being replaced. I have listened carefully to the new offense that is planned and how there is a “swagger” among the skill position players that this year is different. But as entertaining as it is, it isn’t worth much else.

When was the last time someone looked incredible in preseason or training camp and actually turned out to be a star when people didn’t already think he would be a star back in March? That random linebacker who suddenly looks good in camp might contribute some in the end, but the mass consumption of information we are forcefed by ESPN and local media is overkill and rarely accurate. So what if so-and-so looked great in practice today? Each year we have 50 or 60 names thrown at us about who will take a leap this year to greatness; perhaps one or two of them actually do so. Meanwhile some 6th round afterthought comes in and blows us away (see Derek Anderson).

I will pay attention to the Ravens training camp, and I eagerly await the beginning of the season. However, it is important to remember that what we get out of that news may not be all that significant or even accurate in terms of the impact on the field. Until they line up against the Bengals on September 7th, we have no idea what we are going to get. It’s safe to keep that 8th inning tie game on the TV for now; let’s let baseball keep the summer.

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