You can smell football in the air
It’s four days until the NFL season kicks off, and that makes it the best time of the year.
OK, it’s the preseason — as the Denver Broncos visit the Atlanta Falcons (8 p.m., NBC) in the Hall of Fame game — but it’s still the NFL.
Some may claim that’s a lesser-value property than regular season NFL. They would be correct. Some may also claim preseason games exist largely to line the pockets of NFL team owners, who often charge the same ticket prices as they do for regular season games for what amounts to glorified practices.
Again, they would be correct, but I don’t care.
It’s football. On TV. It’s much better than summertime TV schlock, no matter how many channels exist. At 8 p.m. last Thursday the major network options were “The Wall,” “Holey Moley,” “Love Island” and “MasterChef.”
Yawn. Reruns of “Cheers” or “West Wing” on Netflix are more compelling, a mix of comfort and nostalgia, but they’re old. Been there. Done that. Plus, we’ve completed “Stranger Things” on Netflix — although it’s worth watching twice.
So it’s time for football. In the 175 days since the Super Bowl, that annual pigskin dessert, my appetite for pro football has grown — as it does annually.
Rosters might not move significantly because of what happens in the preseason, but they do move. The action matters, even if only a little. It’s still more real and relevant than any sort of “reality TV.”
The games offer meaningful action, and they come with familiar characters — players who have made a name for themselves in previous seasons or in the college football. (Denver Broncos WR DaeSean Hamilton from PSU, for example.)
Preseason NFL games draw decent ratings, and that does not reflect poorly on those watching. It just means that games are the best available TV shows when they air, and that people like football. People like me.
It’s been a little over two weeks since “Sports Central” with Cory Giger stopped airing in the region on 1430 WVAM in Altoona and ESPN Radio 1450 in State College, and it’s been a loss for sports fans.
A daily sports talk show provides a sense of community and a sounding board. Without one — especially in an area that had such a show previously — sports fans are missing something. As we get closer to Penn State football season, the show’s absence will be more pronounced.
My sense is Giger, a sports writer for the Mirror, will resurface in a radio role in the not-to-distant future. When he does, that will be a good thing.
Penn State athletics and fans seeking information about parking changes for the Aug. 31 Penn State home opener against Idaho are among those who lose a little bit without the show, too. The show could have been a free outlet to convey necessary information about the changes to fans in the region.
Season ticket holders should expect Penn State to make a push about that information online, through social media channels and with other media outlets in advance of that season-opening game.
n The Steelers kick off their preseason Aug. 9 at home against the Buffalo Bills. Game coverage, produced by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, will air in our region on WTAJ-TV (Channel 10).
n Belated kudos to the Golf Channel and NBC for standout coverage of the British Open last week. Good shots, especially those bunker shots, and a nice job with storytelling throughout the tournament. Plus, the weather for that event always makes things interesting and provides good visuals.
n Count me excited that Matt Millen will return as a game analyst for BTN this season after his successful heart surgery last December. He’s engaging and knowledgeable. He might not be among the best in the business, but he’s awfully close to the top, and BTN is better and more legitimate with him working its games.
n The ACC Network launches Aug. 22. Propped up by ESPN and following the successful pattern of BTN and the SEC Network, the channel provides revenues for conference member schools while it further splinters the media landscape for intercollegiate athletics. At 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31, Pitt plays host to Virginia as the conference network carries five games on the opening weekend of the season.
n If you’ve heard Dan Le Batard’s complaints regarding ESPN’s policy about not discussing politics on its airwaves, which led to a one-day hiatus for him from his radio show last week, it just feels like more of the same. Sure, it’s hard and maybe silly to parse politics, society and sports. But when Le Batard goes on these anti-management spiels it just seems like performance art. Maybe it will lead to a departure someday, but he has a pretty good gig at ESPN on radio and TV, and it’s hard to believe that playing by the company’s rules or taking a more tactful approach would make him any less credible or less appealing to listeners and viewers.
Sampsell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.