NFL preseason feeds the beast

August 29, 2012, 4:41 pm
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And so, another largely pointless NFL preseason is about to end, another 65-game hamster wheel race that reveals next to nothing except our capacity for self-delusion when it comes to professional football.In other words, it all means something unless you dont want it to mean anything. Or it means nothing unless you want it to mean something. Neither matters as long as you keep tapping that vein.And yet, whats the alternative? Two more real games that serve mostly to keep people talking and increase the damage done to assets equipment . . . er, players bodies?Amazing, then, when you think of it. A month of valueless non-entertainment ends up being less valuable than two more games of time-bomb carnage, and the NFL wins either way. In fact, amazing doesnt even begin to cover it. Breathtaking comes closer to the truth. Yes, August is an important month for coaches who want answers to small questions and players on the fringe who are hoping to be those answers. But for the rest of America, at least the large segment that believes that any football at all is better than the best of anything else, this really is the shining monument to ones ability to want to be gulled.I once thought that the NFL was responsible for this morass of late summer nonsense, and maybe in a conspiratorial way it still is. In the last 10 years, it has performed a mind-meld with its customer base to convince that everything is hugely important even when the large percentage of it truly is not.Example: The Indianapolis combine. And dont even try to make an argument for it. Youre wrong, youve been wrong, and youll always be wrong. Its large young men in their underwear running, jumping and lifting heavy things, and thats all it is.But the practice game season has always been considered a joke to most folks that is, until we decided as a media-driven collective (providers and consumers alike) that trying to ferret out what is important from what isnt is not nearly as lucrative as throwing everything into the air, calling it all important and letting the blather fall where it may.In other words, feeding the beast. And not because there was a great demand for it from the customer, but because the technology allows us to make a bigger and more ravenous beast.The NFL didnt make this beast, but it saw what it could be when it was a mere beastlet. There was an information explosion coming, and the NFL leaped into the breach to convince people that it needed to be among the first in line to fill the crater.And so it is. And the proof is every August, and every time someone wants to engage in a discussion about which third-string quarterback would be a better fit for backup clipboard for Your Favorite Team. Twenty years ago, this debate either got you clocked in your favorite tavern, or got you your own end of the bar, away from everyone else.Now, you can get a spirited discussion on why the NFL blackout policy sucks in the preseason, even though no games are worth watching. Veterans now sit out entire preseasons without penalty, but everyone agrees that is prudent. Thus, we have games people want to see that are games veterans know are time-wasters. It is jaw-dropping.But after this weekend, mercifully, the worst month of the year will be over, and we can get down to the really important things that make the NFL what it is today.Namely, the five months of high speed collisions that will shape the events that help you prepare more comprehensively for the upcoming draft in April.And you could never truly have that with in 18-game regular season.Ray Ratto is a columnist for