Monday, August 3, 2009

August allure

It’s that wonderful time of the year for men everywhere. The end of July signals the beginning of the end of the hectic summer and more importantly, brings us to that wonderful month of August when the football gods reign down upon us the start of another season of the glorious American tradition of pigskin, pork rinds, beers, cheers and jeers — better known as football season.

Yes, men will be slobbing around every Saturday, Sunday and Monday night and, for some, most every Thursday and Friday night for the next 5 months. There’ll be an incalculable amount of: beer, chicken wings, potato chips and hot dogs consumed; heads, hearts and stomachs aching; hours, Mondays at work and church missed; and feelings, pride and spirit hurt than any other time of the year.

Training camps began around Aug. 1 for most NFL (National Football League) teams around the league and while the first regular season games are a little more than a month away, and college football still a month away, there is still plenty to keep you busy heading into the 2010-11 season.

The continual expanding and mastery of Internet trends has progressed the sports world too over the years.

Fantasy football leagues are one of those trends and are forming, as we speak, all over the Internet (see: ESPN.com, CBSsportsline.com or Yahoo.com) and in households across the country. It is a still-growing trend that while time-consuming, counter-productive to most work environments and a growing cause of divorce and separation, is a multi-million dollar industry that gives fans a chance to fulfill their “every-man(s) fantasy” of being a NFL general manager. Countless hours are spent at work and on home computers tweaking lineups and proposing blockbuster trades each week in a quest to win the league championship, immortalizing that person with nothing more than a fictitious trophy (in most cases) and bragging rights for an entire seven months, until next year that is, when it can happen all over again.

Blogging is another one of those trends that have seen great success in sports. Fans have more access to information in sports on many more levels than ever before thanks to blogs. One site — SBnation.com — has blogs for almost every professional sporting team and collegiate school, including those for the Lions, www.prideofdetroit.com, Tigers, www.blessyouboys.com, Pistons, www.motownstringmusic.com, Red Wings, www.wingingitinmotown.com, Michigan State University, www.theonlycolors.com and University of Michigan, www.maizenbrew.com. I’m personally addicted to the Lions, Tigers and Pistons sites and usually visit each one a few times everyday. Plus, ESPN.com is always a good source for top news stories and vast selections of random interesting sports material.

Another huge part of August for me, and at least 500,000 other people so far this year and tens of millions historically, is the release of the Madden football game. Easily the most popular yearly release EA Sports (Electronic Arts Sports) has to offer gets bigger and better each year. From playing the game as is to creating a whole team of players to playing as yourself as a draft pick to running an entire franchise, this game has it all, which is why it’s the longest standing franchise in sports games. And the better news for fans is this year’s game — Madden 10 — is going to be iconic in terms of realism.

For years, the game has been the best on the market, however it lacked a few realistic factors that technology had not been able to incorporate into the game. Players caught balls 40 yards downfield without ever looking back at the quarterback, fumbles were picked up by standing linemen in a crowd of 12 players, only one defender could tackle a ball carrier and so on. While EA sports has continually made strides in perfecting the game it was never able to really satisfy my tough critique, however I still spent infinite hours playing the game, which it wasn’t uncommon to go on an 8-plus-hour bender playing the game the first night it was released. But after looking at the previews and reading summaries from the developers on this year’s changes and additions, I’m purely ecstatic over the emphasis on realism they’ve incorporated. While I haven’t obviously played Madden 10 yet, as it’s not set to be released until Aug. 14, I can’t wait to and it’ll surely keep me busy during downtime.

Preseason games start in two weeks and while they don’t usually prove anything, as was evidence by the Lions’ 4-0 preseason last year, they do fill the void and give you a look at some of the unheard-of players on the team.

But lest you’re only satisfied with regular season games, don’t worry. They aren’t too far off. September 3 (college) and September 13 (professional) are right around the corner. Soon enough we’ll all be sinking further and further into our sofas, drearily fixated on game after game, week after week.

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