On Thursday, the clouds parted, the angels sang, and a bright future—stuffed to the brim with untold promise of unbelievable achievements and incredible excitement—announced itself, which is to say that football returned.
That was an extravagant sentence, yes. It is also one in keeping with the tone of a statement issued Thursday by football’s grand vizier, Roger Goodell, to mark the start of the 2018 NFL season. As a rule, official Goodell statements tend to be stylistically muted; their sole wacky extravagance is usually an on-off affair with the Oxford comma. Not so this time around.
In Thursday’s statement, there are em dashes; there are en dashes; there is, against all odds, an interrobang. It is full of bad writing, and strange writing, and all of it is superimposed, for some reason, over a picture of Rams linebacker Ejuan Price, the no. 234 pick in the 2017 NFL draft and a zero-time starter—yeah, I don’t know either. Somehow, that is not the strangest part of the letter.
So, to celebrate Roger Goodell’s celebrating the start of the 2018 NFL season, let’s see what we can learn from the commissioner’s warm welcome letter.
I don’t think there are three words in sports that get more people more excited about what is yet to come.
Analysis: This is almost assuredly false. While the NFL has a solid claim on having the largest sporting fan base in the United States, I’m not sure ol’ Rog’s “Football. Is. Back.” slogan comes out ahead of, say, “FIFA World Cup” in terms of sheer numbers of excited people. But he states this as opinion, so we’ll give it to him.
In a matter of days, 32 teams will take the field for Kickoff Weekend, all of them hoping and dreaming about playing their way to Atlanta and Super Bowl LIII five months from now. Everyone’s got a chance. None of us can wait to go.
Analysis: It’s unclear who “us” refers to at the end—fans? Teams? People with financial stakes in football ratings?—but Le’Veon Bell, for one, seemingly can wait to go. And as for “everyone” having a chance, well …
There really is nothing like football. The plays that make your jaw drop. The moments that make your heart pound through your chest.
Analysis: The events that make your soul stir. The results that make your spirit soar. The clichés that make your eyeballs ache.
The stakes that are always there, through all 17 regular season weeks—when every win or loss could mean the difference between making the playoffs or watching at home.
Analysis: This is not how math—or, for that matter, playoff odds—works. Please note that this is the commissioner’s sole use of an em dash in the statement; he inventively switches to en dashes hereafter.
Last year, in the face of so much adversity, it was the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, fans all around the league can look at their own teams and say – why not us?!
Analysis: I have spent a lot of time today trying to imagine Roger Goodell saying the words “why not us?!” as he imagines, perhaps, a group of Dolphins fans. I have not succeeded.
And they’re right.
Analysis: They are not right.
But along the way, to me, the best parts will be the moments that we can all treasure, no matter where we’re from or who we root for. The stories that give the game meaning far beyond the field – that reveal the true character of the players, coaches and also you – the greatest fans in the world. Because it’s through these stories, and in these moments, that football brings us all together, often in awe-inspiring ways.
Analysis: This is a bunch of gibberish that seems to hint at ye olde Bigger Than Football moments: the die-hard seniors desperate to see their favorite team make one last playoff run, the pigskin bridging Thanksgiving dinner divides, etc. Good thing last year’s biggest non-football football stories were handled so thoughtfully by the folks in charge; surely we all feel much more united now.
So, we’re looking forward to another year of the amazing. Another year highlighting incredible stars and indelible performances. Another Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, another Most Valuable Player and of course another massive celebration for the team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy.
Analysis: Local taxpayers are often the ones left paying for the festivities after their hometown team wins the Super Bowl—the Eagles, for example, paid just $273,000 of the $2.27 million cost of the team’s February victory parade, leaving the rest to the city of Philadelphia and its kindly pole climbers. So I can see why Goodell likes this part.
Here’s to you, your team and the NFL’s 99th season. It’s time to celebrate.
Football. Is. Back.
Analysis: Ugh. It really, truly is.