The pointless, yet profitable, preseason
By Tim Keown
Page 2 columnist

As usual, everybody's getting it all wrong on this exhibition football thing.

The NFL shouldn't eliminate it, or limit it, or charge less for it.

The NFL should embrace it, market it, profit from it.

Michael Vick
Mike Vick pays a heavy price for preseason football.
The idea of a season-altering injury taking place in a wholly meaningless game should be celebrated, not questioned. Six months from now, 250,000 people are going to claim to have been in attendance when Michael Vick broke a bone in his leg and cast a pall over the Falcons' season. No matter what happens to that team between now and December, nothing will have nearly as much impact as Vick's injury.

Exhibition football, where the meaningless becomes indispensable in the crack of a bone. Other than last year's playoff win at Green Bay, the Falcons haven't played a game as important as Saturday night's since Fulton Kuykendall laced 'em up.

Why would the NFL want to miss the opportunity to take advantage of that kind of marketing potential? And you, as a fan, shouldn't want to miss the chance to curse the moment your team's season was destroyed in a game that doesn't show up in the standings.

Come for the football, stay for the train wreck.

Kind of like NASCAR, only with fewer Confederate flags.

You can almost hear the keyboard-pounders in the stern, intense world of NFL journalism (man, football brings 'em out, don't it?) furrowing their collective brow and issuing their frothy dismissals. Somewhere, hidden in the fine print, there are bound to be salary-cap implications to exalting in the potential importance of the meaningless.

Embrace it. Market it. Profit from it.

This is a sick world, filled with high-stakes death pools, revolting reality-TV and Jeremy Shockey. The NFL has never been bashful about profiting from it, so why start now?

Why fight progress?

This Week's List

  • Well, now, we can all agree this makes everything -- the minor-league career, the blatant profiteering from death, the decapitation -- all better: An assistant state attorney in Florida ruled that Ted Williams' signature on a note expressing a desire to be frozen was not fraudulent.

  • Speaking of making it all better: Dave Bliss says he "knew better" than to slander a dead man in order to save his own sorry hide, so chalk up another one for the good old American system of higher education.

  • Mike Price: Looking better every day.

  • Even though the writer left out the part about residents wanting to pull Jose out of the on-deck circle and rename the street "Ruben Sierra Way": Jose Canseco Sr. got irritated enough to write a letter to the Miami Herald to complain about its allegedly unprofessional coverage of his son in a story about people who live on Jose Canseco Street in Miami.

  • Before you start thinking "Father of the Year" consider this: Jose Sr.'s other son, Ozzie, is facing five years of prison in his own right for a litany of traffic violations.

  • Just for the heck of it: Randy Moffitt.

  • He's a versatile reliever, fully capable of blowing up during and after: Jose Mesa.

  • From the outside, it looks like it would be a lot of fun to play for this guy: Tony Pena.

  • Maybe the oddest quote you'll ever read from a big-league manager: After Dennis Martinez threw out the first pitch at an Expos-Giants game over the weekend, Felipe Alou told reporters, "More and more, he looks like Ho Chi Minh."

  • If you're looking to rebuild a program, it's always best to start with leadership and character: Ex-Florida State QB Adrian McPherson has enrolled at Tennessee State, apparently with an eye on playing football.

  • Two observations culled from a lengthy afternoon of viewing the Little League World Series: 1) you don't win unless your 12-year-old pitcher can throw a steady diet of breaking balls; and 2) your 12-year-old pitcher is unlikely to have much of a career as a 15-year-old if he throws a steady diet of breaking balls.

  • What my friend The Scout says about kids throwing breaking balls: "Fastballs and changeups, until you start shaving."

  • Speaking of Michael Vick and the ephemeral nature of the quarterback position: Why don't NFL teams make more of an effort to sign backup quarterbacks who have roughly the same talents and tendencies as the starters?

  • The thing about America is, you never know when you're going to find yourself in a scene from "Porky's": Before the PGA, Mark Calcavecchia injured his right arm at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix when someone threw him into the park's swimming pool when he was fully clothed.

  • Dressing now for the next GQ cover shoot: Shawn Micheel, Ben Curtis and Rich Beem.

  • Existentialist question of the week: What happens when the worst defensive team in the NBA loses No-D Antawn Jamison and replaces him with Less-D Nick Van Exel?

  • To a Warrior fan, they're the two most meaningless words in the language: Cap room.

  • It might not work as an advertising campaign, but give 'em a little time to put it to a catchy jingle: The rallying cry for the hideously inept Warriors' organization -- "Just think about all the money potential free agents will be able to turn down in the next five years."

    Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at



    Tim Keown Archive

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