The NFL returns to save America, and just in time

Jay Busbee
·4-min read
(Yahoo Sports illustration by Albert Corona)
(Yahoo Sports illustration by Albert Corona)

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Morning, friends! We made it!

The stretch between 00:00 on the Super Bowl scoreboard and the next NFL season’s kickoff is always a tough seven months. But in 2020, it’s felt like seven years. But we did it! The end of the long slog through the football desert is just a few hours away.

I don’t need to recount everything that’s happened since we saw the Kansas City Chiefs hoisting the Lombardi Trophy; it’s enough to say that the NFL is returning to a world very different than the one it left. And it’s back exactly when we need it: right on time.

Literally — and I do mean literally — everything in our lives has turned sideways since February. The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged every niche of American society, and sports are no exception. Almost no sport is running on the same schedule it did before; we’ve got NBA playoff basketball in September and we’re looking at college football in March. There’s a rhythm to the normal sports calendar, and we shouldn’t underestimate how destabilizing it's been to lose those foundations.

Thank heaven, then, for the NFL, arriving on its designated weekend, its schedule and its storylines neatly arrayed just like every other year. For a moment, we don’t need to focus on the hellscape outside our windows, on our phones, or inside our own heads. For just a bit, we can debate whether Tom Brady’s Bucs can outplay Drew Brees’s Saints, we can kick around whether Dak Prescott deserves a monster contract, we can wonder how the rest of the AFC East is going to throw up on itself and let the Pats win again.

Just for a little while, the NFL’s going to bring us all some blessed normalcy. Thank you, NFL. Thank you for saving us.

(For the overly literal-minded segment of the internet that doesn’t put up with hyperbole, extravagance or any other foolishness: no, of course football isn’t going to save America. We’ve got a pandemic still raging, racial divisions are straining our country at the seams, and the less said about the election season the better. But football’s going to provide normalcy in three-hour doses, and for now, that’ll do.)

Things kick off tonight with Houston at Kansas City, and then the entire dogpile rolls out on Sunday. Everything concludes on Monday with that special doubleheader. That late-night Monday game always feels like the last helping of turkey you grab from the fridge on Thanksgiving night, so unnecessary but so good. I can’t wait for it, and here are a few more bits of pre-COVID NFL life I can’t wait to enjoy again:

  • The rookie receiver absolutely going off, skying for three touchdowns in ever-more-dramatic fashion;

  • Some poor defensive back getting absolutely trucked as he tries to face down Derrick Henry or Alvin Kamara;

  • The snap judgment on Joe Burrow’s entire career based on his first series with the Bengals;

  • The touchdown celebrations of the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles;

  • A player making the first-down motion after he’s tackled even though he’s clearly five yards short;

  • The transcendent joy of realizing that the running back who just broke a 75-yard touchdown run is on your starting roster;

  • The meticulous planning of gameday meals, from lunch right on through your Sunday night halftime snack; (Tip: sneak some greens somewhere in there amongst all the meat.)

  • The goofy kicker who drills a game-winner and gets hoisted by his linemen like they’re trying to stuff him into a plane’s overhead bin;

  • A grind-it-out, do-or-die goal-line defensive stand where the offense shudders and collapses like it just ran into the side of a building;

  • The methodical, surgical march down the field as a quarterback in full control of his team and his head as he picks apart the defense like a grandmaster. It’s genius on display in real time.

It’s NFL time again, friends. Let’s have some fun. We’ve earned that, don’t you think?

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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