This is one of the toughest weekends of the year for football fans. After a full schedule of 17 weeks of regular season football and three more weeks of intense playoff contests, this weekend there are no meaningful football games to watch. It is a portent of things to come. After next Sunday, there will be no NFL games that count until the week after Labor Day in September. It’s time to prepare for football withdrawal.
Sure, the Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, but unless you’re crazy enough to place a bet on the game or have a relative playing in it, the outcome is truly unimportant. Off the top of your head, can anybody tell me which conference won the Pro Bowl in 2016 (played in January 2017)? It was the AFC. Does anybody remember who the MVP was? The offensive MVP was Kansas City’s Travis Kelce while the defensive MVP was linebacker Lorenzo Alexander of the Bills.
The Pro Bowl is a strange game with limited coaching and strategy options (no blitzing, for example) and the overall goal of just not getting anybody hurt. Players aren’t going all out, aren’t tackling hard and the game ends up being something more than flag football but nothing approaching the intensity of playoff or even regular season football. The Pro Bowl can be enjoyable to watch if you’re in the right mood, but it can’t be called a meaningful football game.
The NFL is unique among the major team sports in North America because there are so few games and most of them are played on Sundays at specific times along with Monday night and now, regrettably, Thursday night. Football fans have their routines on Sundays that often includes what time they wake up, what pre-game shows they watch, where they watch the games and with who. There are traditional foods and drinks that many fans enjoy each Sunday from early September until early February while watching the NFL.
But, this Sunday, fans will wake up and face a Sunday without a pre-game show and at 1:00 pm eastern time, there will not be any games to watch. There will be no prime-time game on Sunday night either. The Pro Bowl will come in the middle of the afternoon, a 3:00 pm start on the east coast, high noon out west. The Pro Bowl is something football related, but it isn’t the quite football. Still, it’s better than nothing.
But this weekend is a reminder of the void that lies ahead for NFL fans. Next weekend is the Super Bowl, which is anything but routine. The Super Bowl is about the halftime show, the commercials, the betting pools and the parties as much as it is about the game. It’s also the last live game we’ll see for the next seven months.
From February through August, millions of football fans will have to find something else to with their Sundays. There will be places to go, other things to watch on television, books to read, movies to see, museums to visit and family members to spend time with and do things with.
But for the next seven months, our Sundays will not be the same. After 20 straight weeks of intense football fun, this weekend reminds us of the void that lies ahead. The immediate future is a time where there are no live NFL games, our favorite teams are not playing and there are our football routines are put on hold…At least until we start all over again in September.