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The Real Rules of Preseason Football

Just because the games don’t count doesn’t mean that they don’t matter.

NFL: Super Bowl LII-Philadelphia Eagles vs New England Patriots Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

There seems to be some confusion among 32 fan bases about how to react to preseason football games. Bears and Ravens fans, of course, have a one-game lead on the rest of the sports world because we got to ‘enjoy’ the Hall of Fame game, as well. Therefore, as a public service, I would like to offer the following six real rules for preseason football.

1. If a favored player plays well, he’s going to the Pro Bowl.

This is especially true of high draft picks, players coming back off of injury, and recent free agent acquisitions.

2. If a favored player plays poorly, that’s okay because it’s only vanilla [offense/defense], plus it’s just the preseason, so chill.

When in doubt, remember that the player in question is likely saving something for the regular season or wisely trying not to get hurt.

3. If a disliked player on the roster plays well, he’s only going against scrubs and future insurance salesmen.

Make sure to remember that if the disliked player has a special role on the team, like coverage in special teams, that said role is totally unimportant to football and can readily be replaced by anyone off the street.

4. If, however, a disliked player plays poorly, he’s obviously a bum who can’t even play against bums.

Do not worry that this contracts #2. Nope. Just don’t worry about it.

5. If other teams do things well in preseason, it’s only one drive and it’s against ______, so who cares?

If, by some small chance, it happens to be multiple drives, or against a good team, remind yourself that the team that does good things is probably keeping its starters out against 2s and 3s, or that it is giving your team “tape” on how to beat them.

6. If other teams do things poorly in preseason, that means that “We’re going to destroy them in Week ___.”

Because, obviously, that’s how it works.


Every so often there are those who cannot follow the rules. Here are some penalties for those posters.

Major Penalties

Actively criticizing a favored player is a preseason commentary infraction called “Hope interference.” It’s a spot-of-the-criticism penalty in the pros, but only 10 posts in college.

Pointing out that problems from the prior season do not seem to have been addressed is “Emotionally roughing the fanbase.” It gives an automatic “first comment” to the rebuilders.

Admitting that there is something another team did well in preseason is point of emphasis this year, and it is called “lowering objectivity/rational targeting.” It’s serious, and could result in ejection from a fandom.

Minor Penalties

Bringing up any contradictions in what has been said about the team and what is shown on the field is “illegal use of facts to the face of enjoyment,” and is a 5-post penalty.

Talking about playoff match-ups before the ball is snapped is a “seasonal offsides,” or “unabated to the postseason,” and it is to be met with “dude, don’t jinx it” or a 5-post penalty (ref’s discretion).

With this cleared up, please Preseason Football responsibly.