Like every football fan in Minnesota, I tuned in to the opening of the Vikings’ preseason. The first two games, actually.
I stopped there, though, because I fell asleep at halftime during both of them. As you all probably know, there really isn’t anything worth watching after the first two quarters, and it’s usually a stretch to say anything in the games are really all that interesting.
With the NFL seemingly bent on maintaining its reign over the sports world, the lackluster preseason is something I can imagine the league switching up. Of course, this is all just speculation from me, but a boring product just isn’t something the NFL is interested in.
We can all agree the games are pointless, but what could the league actually do about it? I’ve come up with a list of possible improvements to make the NFL’s season preview a little more interesting. You’ll probably notice that a lot of these will resemble baseball’s “preseason,” which continues to grow in popularity. It’s because I live just a few blocks from the Chicago Cubs spring training facility and see what a spectacle it’s become. Here they are:
1. Stop mimicking “official” games. Yes, that’s right. Get rid of playing full games. At least the organized, televised ones we’re used to. Why do they even try to pretend they’re actually games? Instead, they should adopt a college model. Yes, they should have “spring games” where they are nothing more than controlled practices with two different offenses and defenses going against each other. They should be more like those mixed scrimmages you always hear about during camp.
2. Let teams have their camps close to home for a few weeks but have one or two designated preseason destinations, like the MLB. I know it’s the summer, so a lot of places are gonna be hot, but it would be a good way to create a destination experience for a lot of fans. People come to Phoenix from all over the country for baseball’s spring training, and it has gotten so big that fans are starting to come months earlier in the fall to see the Arizona Fall League, where MLB teams send their top minor league prospects to develop. It’s a huge opportunity and the NFL should take advantage.
3. Bringing all the teams together means you could have so many individual competitions. Forget the incredibly depressing veterans combine. Why not have current NFL stars compete in a combine or a skills competitions? Who is fastest? Who is the most accurate quarterback? Who can bench press the most? These were some ideas that a lot of people wanted to see replace the Pro Bowl game, but why not have them during a time that players would actually do them? And fans would get to see Adrian Peterson actually do something before the season starts.
To me, the NFL preseason is nothing but dead air, and NFL fans deserve better. Of course, a lot of people are going to claim that this will mess up the players training before a season. But with how many people tune in live to the combine before the draft, I’m sure there would be enough interest in actually seeing players get ready for the season.
The NFL has pushed its way on to 24-hour television during the offseason, and ESPN seems more than willing to accommodate. If it’s going to be on TV, let’s at least make it worth watching.