The baseball purists will tell you that life begins on Opening Day, and of course they are only half-right.
Right idea, wrong sport.
Just so you know, life as we know it began yesterday.
Pro football’s back, baby.
I am in heaven right now. This is opening weekend of the pro football season and the second weekend for college football, and by my unscientific calculations, that means that between Thursday evening and the late Monday night, if I manage my time properly, I can watch college and pro football live or on tape continuously for somewhere in the neighborhood of 96 consecutive hours.
Over the course of the next few months, I am going to be fully immersed in pro football until the final gun sounds at the conclusion of the Super Bowl. I expect to see a lot during the next few months, some of it good, some of it bad. These are a few of my favorite (and not so favorite) things I want to see:
1. Less of the Dallas Cowboys: They used to be “America’s Team.” Now they are just an annoying side show. One of the best things about the NFL used to be HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Leave it to the Cowboys (especially the greatly over-exposed camera hog owner Jerry Jones) to turn “Hard Knocks” from great sports documentary to obviously staged bad reality TV show. Did you see that cloying final episode when Jones kept having those insincere heart-to-heart fireside chats with that sixth-string wide receiver? Oh come on, Jerry, like you honestly give a crap about a nobody wide receiver on the practice squad. Stop it. STOP IT! Call us back after you win a playoff game, okay?
2. A happy ending for Brett Favre: Anyone who has ever played sports knows that awful feeling when you realize that your athletic life is being determined by someone else. Whether it happens in little league, high school, college or the pros, eventually your fate is handled by some awful soul who informs you before you’re ready that your ride is over. So that’s why I understand why the legendary future Hall of Fame quarterback wasn’t ready to ride into retirement just yet. If he is that rare athlete who gets to play until every last drop of talent and desire has expired, I’m not only with him, I’m deeply jealous of him too. Now that he is in a New York Jets uniform, the possibility of an unhappy ending is very likely. But I want the old gunslinger to find a way to make his final season (seasons??) better than any of us could imagine.
3. A healthy Shawne Merriman: I could sit here forever and give you all the reasons why I love football so much, but most of you already know the deal about my Saturday passions and Sunday obsessions. But my love is not blind. When I see something about the game that disturbs me, I can’t ignore it.
So when I saw news that San Diego Chargers’ Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman has decided to ignore the advise of several independent doctors who advised him to have season-ending surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee, my first instinct was to think that Merriman’s choice was typical football mentality. That used to be a compliment.
Today I believe it’s a huge insult.
Five orthopedic specialists examined his left knee and confirmed that he had torn the posterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. Only one doctor — big surprise it was the Chargers’ expert — said he could play the season without risk to his career. The others said that he should shut it down immediately, have his knee reconstructed and come back next year at full strength. They also told him that with two of the four ligaments in his knee already torn, another injury to the knee could end his brilliant football life.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
But Merriman knows that the Chargers are being picked by most experts to be Super Bowl champs this season, and he doesn’t want to miss out on that. The 24-year-old three-time Pro Bowl pick is acting like this is a golf tournament and he’s Tiger Woods. He thinks he can just gut out an entire NFL season like Woods did on a bum knee at the U.S. Open. But 300-pound offensive linemen weren’t trying to crack back on Tiger’s gimpy knee.
This is a dangerous game, and it’s also a cruel and unforgiving business. I remember something former St. Louis Rams defensive lineman DeMarco Farr told me just the other day when we were talking about why he never smiled when he came out onto the field before the game. “Because this game’s no joke,” Farr said. “When you step on that field, you know this could be the game where you die, literally. Every time you step onto that field, you’re putting your life at risk, or someone else’s life at risk. That’s why I didn’t smile. This is serious, serious stuff.”
So even when he’s 100 percent, Merriman is putting his body, his career and his life on the line. Going out there under those already risky conditions with a knee being held together by only two (not four) ligaments, is like driving in a car race with faulty break pads. It’s no guarantee that the breaks will fail and the car will end up slamming into a wall at 200 mph, but the odds are decidedly with the wall.
PFT: Tom Brady, who turns 36 in August, says he has "never felt better throwing the football" and his confidence is peaking.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Next step towards total dominance for NFL
ProFootballTalk: The NFL and the NFLPA are reportedly close to finalizing a new offseason schedule that would move the scouting combine, draft and OTAs up a month. Mike Florio thinks this will help further the NFL’s dominance over the other sports in the American landscape.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.