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The NFL Preseason: A bittersweet symphony

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The NFL Preseason doesn’t matter, but our obsession with the sport of football will have us tuning in anyway.

Chicago Bears v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We’ve finally done it, my friends. We’ve survived the dead period of the year in between the NFL Draft and Training Camp, those hot months where there’s not a single Football Sunday in sight. Back in May I even wrote about how much I hated the NFL dead period: you can find that article here.

But all of that is behind us now. The Preseason workouts have been completed, and now real football is finally back! Except, it’s not really back, we’re still a month away from that.

The NFL Preseason is one of life’s ultimate bittersweet sensations. We haven’t watched the Falcons play a football game since December 30. When they kick off against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, that will have been nearly seven full months ago. We’ll get to see the boys put in work on the football field this week, that’s the sweet part. Hardcore football fans (myself included) will get a taste of what they’ve missed for more than half a year, but make no mistake about it — it’s just a small taste.

NFL Preseason games, however, don’t matter. How well or how poorly you play in the preseason isn’t at all indicative of how the season will go. Remember, the 2008 Detroit Lions were undefeated in the preseason that year, and then they went on to post the first 0-16 record in NFL history. The 2016 Falcons induced widespread panic in the state of Georgia over how poorly they played in the third preseason game against the Miami Dolphins, and then they went on to win the NFC.

This is the time for veterans to shake off the rust and for rookies to get somewhat accustomed to actual NFL game speed. In these next few weeks, please don’t panic if you see Deion Jones miss a tackle or Matt Ryan throw an interception, they’re most likely just working out the kinks.

Many people like to say that football is finally back for the Falcons this week, and while they’re technically not wrong in their sentiment, real football will be back for the Falcons when they kick off against the Minnesota Vikings on September 8, at around 1 p.m. eastern time. The NFL Preseason is the final hurdle which we need to inevitably overcome before we’re rewarded with five months of non-stop NFL Football action.

However, while it seems like I’m completely devaluing the experience of the preseason, I’ll be right there watching every single Falcons preseason game, just like most of you, hoping for good play and (most importantly) no injuries.

Much of America will be tuning in as well, as this sport has the country (myself included) obsessed with it. The Hall of Fame Game, the NFL’s annual Preseason kickoff game, was the most viewed television program in the country on Thursday Night, generating 5.3 million viewers. The HOF Game is the most meaningless of preseason games where even the starting Quarterbacks for both teams sit out.

In the hit 2015 movie Concussion, the NFL is described as “a corporation which has 20 million people on a weekly basis craving their product, the same way they crave food.” And I legitimately couldn’t describe this league in more accurate terms. Those cravings reach their peak in August, and the preseason is the small taste which has us utterly obsessed by the time Week 1 finally rolls around in September.

Update:

Welcome to the 2019 Preseason, where this article is still very relevant.