As that devastating thought sinks in, let’s figure out what next fall would be for sports fans without the NFL. We’re talking about a hole that roughly spans from the beginning of September to early February. That’s not including HBO’s Hard Knocks, the preseason and every other NFL-related gimmick that us fans eat up in anticipation for the season. Of course there will be the regular sporting events. The World Series will take us well into October, and College Football will run from late August until just after New Year’s. So, I guess I can see getting really hyped about baseball this year and following it closely into the playoffs. In the past it did always kind of feel like some of the World Series’ glory was overshadowed by the NFL season. But that still leaves an NFL-sized void between October and February. I’m not convinced College Football can be the sole provider of football goodness for all of America for an entire football season. That’s a lot of pressure. And College Football has always had the NFL there as a teammate to shoulder most of the load.
For those who think they are just going to hone in on the college game this fall and be fine, consider this: What happens when a rebuilding TCU wins the Big East without breaking a sweat and goes undefeated along with Air Force because everybody else from the Mountain West bounced and a couple other teams from major conferences, too, and you’re left wondering how college football could still not have a playoff system, and how a team from Texas can play in a division called the Big East in a college system that’s not supposed to be about the money? Then what about when the NCAA suspends half a team for accepting complimentary bubble gum at the players’ recruiting visit, but Terrelle Pryor is allowed to play after mysteriously becoming the beneficiary of a small island off the coast of Belize as long as he promises to come back and visit? Trust me. You’re going to want another league you can escape to. College football alone isn’t going to cut it. So, let’s go through some possible NFL alternatives that can team with college football to fulfill our American hunger for hard hits, big plays, and Hail Marys.
The UFL, CFL, and whatever “American” football league they have over in Europe
The United Football League, the United States’ dorky, younger stepbrother of a professional league, stands to gain the most from an NFL lockout. If the UFL can get its act together, it’s possible it can attract some of the NFL’s football-craving fan base. With a peculiar combination of ex-NFL journeymen and college players who couldn’t make an NFL team, the UFL might just have enough intrigue to keep you from changing the channel for a couple minutes, as you flip through day-dreaming about Monday Night Countdowns and JB, Terry, Howie and Jimmy bantering before kickoff. Let’s just put it this way: an aging Jeff Garcia, the former weak-armed, occasionally exciting Eagles’ and 49ers’ quarterback is a star in this league. Garcia had his moments in the NFL, but if that’s the best you have to offer, I’m not sure I’m buying.
Now I’m pretty sure Canadian football has a field that is longer than 100 yards. Not really sure why that is necessary, but it could be a cool little gimmick. The Montreal Alouettes stand as the defending champions, and mentioning their name to most non-Quebecan Canadians instills the fear of God in their hearts. As for Europe, that’s not fooling anybody. “American” football in Europe is worse than the MLS in the States. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of channel surfing past an MLS game on ESPN2, you’ll understand why that isn’t an option.
Replacement Rating: Depressing
Pop Warner Football
Ok, ok, hear me out. A little out-there I know, but Pop Warner is the root of all football. When the finished product isn’t available, why not go directly to the source? What’s more, a lot of states have games on Sundays. There is even a national tournament at the end of the season (cough*cough college football are you kidding me? Even the kindergarteners know.) The age/weight brackets range from Tiny-Mite to Unlimited with Pee Wees and Midgets in between, kind of like boxing, no? Bedtimes probably make Monday Night Football out of the question, but you are still getting football at in its rawest, purest form.
Replacement Rating: Desperate
Taped NFL Games and NFL.com’s Game Rewinds
Probably the most satisfying of the alternatives. When reality fails to deliver, the best response is usually to recede to the realms of past. Heck, fans can even piece together their team’s wins through multiple seasons to create one undefeated super season. If you are truly-prepared, you have been taping games for years in case you ever needed to survive an NFL-less season. For those of us who aren’t that forward-thinking, there is NFL.com’s Game Rewinds. For a small fee, NFL fans can enjoy watching games from the last few seasons, reliving the excitement and glory of past falls. You might just want to not think about how the NFL owners own NFL.com, so paying for Game Rewind is in essence funding the lockout. In fact, scratch this. Under no circumstances should you go this route!
Replacement Rating: Potentially Counterproductive
I think it’s pretty clear by now. There is no replacement for the NFL season. So owners and players, please make peace for us fans, so we don’t have to resort to — yikes — Plan B.