We are in the last few weeks of the college football offseason and they will be some of the longest weeks of the year.
Comrades, we have nearly reached the edge of the desert. Not only is it unbearably hot in this metaphor, it's even been unbearably hot in real life. And yet there are signs of life. Unlike the mid-February sports doldrums, there are training camps and position battles and recruiting to follow. But unless you're actually able to witness these camps for yourself, the excitement of practice is usually balanced equally with the constant dread of practice injuries, especially those of the non-contact variety. Every rep is both one more opportunity for your offense to inch closer to operating flawlessly on a telepathic level and one more opportunity for your most important player to suffer a high ankle sprain and spend every week questionable to play on the injury report. Every run-through can produce a short video clip for Twitter, and maybe it's your sophomore cornerback who's poised for a breakout year despite being under the radar and he makes an incredible one-handed interception and your message boards blow up with people putting him on awards lists and adding several wins to their season prediction. Or maybe that video is of your workhorse upperclassmen halfback taking an awkward cut away from the play and going down holding his leg, and everyone on your board will become a joint specialist and offer their professional opinion on what happened and what his prognosis is, but your team will withhold any meaningful information to the point that you're praying he's on the field for your first offensive snap of the year.
My point is, the fear of injuries blunts the excitement of training camp. What, then, can you turn to in order to get your sports fix?
There's the Olympics, but as you're a sports fan, you care more about watching the sports and appreciating the competition than storylines, inspirational journeys and moving displays of competitive spirit. NBC's coverage is therefore aimed squarely away from you. Look, the soft-focus overcame-the-adversity stories are nice, and if I knew the US women's beach volleyball team, I'd appreciate that everything they do is fully covered, but CAN WE PLEASE SEE PEOPLE THROW OBJECTS AND JUMP REALLY FAR?
There's baseball, which is in the part of the year where half the league knows they're not going to be in the race but it's not quite at the point where every at-bat has a statistically significant impact on the postseason chances of the team. Fans of at least half of the teams in the league are a bit checked out by this point. Maybe it's because I'm from southern Chicagoland, but I'm not especially excited about baseball right now.
There's the NFL preseason, which primarily appeals to me because of the amount of 2015 college players getting significant reps. No matter how much you liked that undervalued slot receiver from your school, no matter how many games he catches 8 for 94 yards, they'll end up cutting him and you'll end up livid. You knew he probably didn't have the physical tools to catch on, and you were just excited that he got some actual NFL preseason stats, but then he had to go and overperform to get your hopes up, didn't he?
Outside of that, the NFL preseason consists of hiding your playbook and hoping you don't incur too many injuries to starters. The Lions went 4-0 in the preseason in 2008. They lost every game in the regular season that year.
If you're invested enough in the NBA summer league to realize it's going on, you might not need college football that badly.
NASCAR is still going on, I guess. Man, I thought NASCAR was a chore when it was just watching Dale Earnhardt Jr. ride around in 14th place for 4 hours every Sunday. Now he's not even in the races anymore due to lingering concussion issues, and I feel like a bad person for hoping I get to see him race again.
Canadian football is also happening if you want to check on former fringe NFL players from your school. Hey, look at that, former Illinois Fighting Illini Ryan Lankford has 15 receptions for 140 yards for the Saskatchewan Roughriders!
You're not old enough to watch golf, and you're not European enough to be satisfied watching soccer or tennis.
So, just how much longer must we crawl to salvation?
Officially,FBS football will kick off next Friday, but that is a game being played in Australia between Cal and Hawaii at 10:00PM Eastern time. I am nowhere near that desperate for football. So when does real football (i.e. Big Ten football) kick off?
15 days (Thursday, Sept 1st)
7:30 EST: Indiana Hoosiers at FIU
9:00 EST: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Oregon State
16 Days (Friday, Sept 2nd)
7:00 EST: Michigan State Spartans: vs Furman
17 Days (Saturday, Sept 3rd)
2:00 EST: Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Washington
8:00 EST: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Fresno State
Hold strong, my fellow fans. Deliverance is near.