You don't like football? Or maybe you're a casual observer who only watches the Superbowl (for the commercials)? That's cool. But do you feel like everyone around you is talking about the NFL and you have nothing to contribute to the conversation?
Well, you've come to the right place. Here is my 2011 NFL Preseason Cheatsheet, providing you with a few easy talking points so you can spend your valuable Sundays in other pursuits.
Topic of Discussion: The Philadelphia Eagles as "The Dream Team"
Correct Response: "Call me when they sign Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. By the way, did you know Michael Vick is left-handed?"
Topic of Discussion: Any combination of the words Denver Broncos, Quarterback Controversy, Tebow, and Kyle Orton.
Correct Response: "Tebow's fun to watch, but he's not quite ready yet. I'm on Team Kyle, even if his ceiling is low and clearly visible."
Topic of Discussion: "I think this thing with Peyton Manning's neck surgery is a bigger deal than the Colts are letting on..."
Correct Response: Nod sadly. Dismiss premonitions of the Patriots winning the Superbowl on the Colts home field in February.
Topic of Discussion: Jay Cutler's knee, Jay Cutler's toughness, Jay Cutler's broken engagement to K-Cav from The Hills.
Correct Response: "Why would a guy who hates the media date a reality TV personality, how did Jay Cutler become a sympathetic figure, and what's he going to do with that 5.2 carat engagement ring!?"
Topic of Discussion: Any team west of the Mississippi River not named the San Diego Chargers.
Correct Response: Avert your eyes and go about your business.
Topic of Discussion: Fantasy Football draft
Correct Response: "Josh Freeman wins football games!" (Just repeat this over and over until whoever you're talking to walks away)
Topic of Discussion: The Houston Texans as this year's 'sleeper' or 'team that turns things around'
Correct Response: Nod happily and know that this person is a sucker. Try to figure out how to use this information to your advantage.
Topic of Discussion: Any team from Ohio, Carolina, or Florida (other than Tampa Bay).
Correct Response: Shake your head sympathetically and make plans to bring fans of these teams cookies sometime around the middle of October. If the fans in question are in Carolina, don't bring fig newtons.
Topic of Discussion: The possibility of a team moving to Los Angeles
Correct Response: Avoid eye contact with any fans of the Minnesota Vikings and/or Jacksonville Jaguars until the conversation turns in another direction.
Topic of Discussion: Brett Favre
Correct Response: Make jokes about the possibility of him moving to Florida because that's what old people do... and then declare yourself a genius when he joins the Miami Dolphins around week 4. Oh, and see if you can work in the whole "taking his talents to South Beach" thing - people love that, especially in Ohio!
Topic of Discussion: Donovan McNabb
Correct Response: (Despite all the joke possibilities, I'm afraid to say anything. I don't want to incite his mom's wrath.)
Topic of Discussion: The New Orleans Saints
Correct Response: Swoon and casually point out that this is a contract year for Drew Brees.
Topic of Discussion: Chad Ochocinco going from Cincinnati to the New England Patriots
Correct Response: (Honestly, every time I read that sentence, it leaves me speechless. I'll get back to you on this one.)
Topic of Discussion: Teams that should be good this year.
Correct Response NFC: Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Philly Cheesesteaks (oops, I mean Eagles)
Correct Response AFC: New England Patriots (ugh), New York Jets (also ugh), Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens (they often seem interchangeable to me), and for the love-of-all-good-and-holy-things, maybe the CHARGERS will finally live up to their potential (but I kind of hope not because that would be inconvenient for me).
Correct Bonus Response: Indianapolis Colts should be contenders if Manning can get rid of whatever he's named that pain in his neck (I'd like to submit 'Philip Rivers' for consideration.) If they make the Superbowl, they'll be the first team to play for the championship on their home turf since the NFL started the location rotation. BELIEVE IN BLUE!
Topic of Discussion: Teams that might surpass expectations (always fun to root for if you're a neutral observer).
Correct Response NFC:
* Detroit Lions! (Been showing flashes of potential when their young quarterback is healthy, and their defense is frisky.)
* Tampa Bay Buccaneers! (Josh Freeman wins football games!)
* San Francisco 49ers! (New coach Jim 'Captain Comeback' Harbaugh will be interesting to watch, especially since the 49ers kind of slacked off last year. Also, I've loved the Captain since he quarterbacked the Colts during their miracle season when I was, like, 12 years old.)
Correct Response AFC:
* Tennessee Titans! (Introducing quarterback Matt Hasselbeck - he has no hair at all, and I enjoy his work.)
* Houston Texans! (Alright, fine - I'm a sucker - but they've got to put it together one of these years... right?)
* Buffalo Bills! (So many heartbreaking near misses last year - it wouldn't take much to surpass expectations.)
Season begins for realz on Sept 11th (with, I anticipate, much 10-year commemoration and ceremony, with the teams from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania playing each other). One last friendly reminder - this year's Superbowl will be in my beloved INDIANAPOLIS on Feb 5, 2012! Start planning your parties now.