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Ten Thoughts on the NFL

More than just the games

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Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

I had a few hours of free time to myself the other night, which is notable during football season. Most of my free time in the fall is soaked up by podcasting, writing, rewatching games, etc., but I found myself with time and a handful of streaming services with full queues of unwatched shows at my disposal. What did I choose? Well, a football documentary, of course. That got me thinking that my world is filled with more than just the games. Books, documentaries, podcasts, You-Tube shows - there’s plenty to choose from and what’s more, I believe it enriches the football experience. For today’s Ten Thoughts, we’ll run through some of the things I’ve recently come across, some things I’m looking forward to, and a couple of things you might’ve missed in the past.

1. Bye, Bye, Barry. The show I watched in my free time recently was the Barry Sanders documentary, which was essentially to get the reason as to why he retired early. I shouldn’t have to sell anyone on how good Barry Sanders was but then again, I realize that his retirement came before the 1999 season so many of you didn’t get to watch him. Let me just say this - when someone says that Barry Sanders was the best running back of all-time, I tell them that’s a valid choice even though I’m required by fandom to disagree and counter with Walter Payton. But, if you’re making a Mount Rushmore of running backs, both guys have a spot secured.

The documentary itself did answer the question of why Barry would walk away so close to breaking Walter Payton’s record. I think it is worth checking out if only to watch some of the incredible highlight runs.

2. Kelce. The documentary on Jason Kelce was a fascinating watch. Following Kelce throughout what he imagined would be his final season, you get to see the physical beating his body takes to grind through an NFL season, the impact it has on his family, and the pull the game has on him. I thought it was one of the most honest looks at a professional athlete dealing with nearing the end of a great career.

One thing that I realized while watching Kelce was that he doesn’t need to worry much about what’s next. A smart network is going to give him a job to work in the studio or in the booth if he’d like as he’s smart and engaging. He might not need to worry about his cattle farming operation much longer.

3. New Heights podcast. Part of the Kelce retirement plan might be the podcast he started with his brother Travis called New Heights. There are a number of former player podcasts but only a few with active players in the league. I’ve listened to a handful of episodes completely through including an interview with Andy Reid, who drafted Jason in Philly before moving to Kansas City and drafting Travis.

Both of the Kelce brothers will wrap up their careers as Hall of Fame players and the podcast provides a window into their football and personal lives that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

4. Green Light Podcast with Chris Long. As far as former player podcasts, I think Chris Long’s Green Light is one of the best. Long himself is engaging, won two Super Bowls, and interviews current and former NFL players regularly. There’s plenty of football strategy talk mixed in with fun stories. Kyle Long appears on many shows and has given some good Bears tidbits from time to time.

5. The History of the Minnesota Vikings. YouTube has some incredible content creators. One of those, Jon Bois, has made a few “history of” series including one this year about the Minnesota Vikings. I’ve heard only good things about this and the Atlanta Falcons history and both are bookmarked for the off season. I’ve heard I might even feel sorry for Vikings fans after watching this...

6. Quarterback. The Netflix special followed Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, and Marcus Mariota through their seasons. The show got plenty lucky with Mahomes winning a Super Bowl and Cousins having a great and exciting regular season, but I’m not sure you could have a bad series with this set up. Getting some behind the scenes looks at what these quarterbacks go through week in and week out to get their bodies and minds ready for the next opponent is something all football fans should watch. The only player that has been confirmed for the next season is Matthew Stafford, which... well, let’s hope there are a couple of others that just haven’t surfaced yet. It’s a great premise for a show and I’d like to see it continue.

7. NFL Films...Anything. I will watch anything that NFL Films produces. The “A Football Life” episodes are all worth your time and many are on YouTube. I like to watch old NFL Films clips from the pre-historic times of the NFL too. Basically anything they do is worth your time - I just wish they’d open up the archives.

Growing up and into college, ESPN would have random days where they would have NFL Films marathons. I would watch 7 hours of NFL yearbooks. Sorry friends, the 2002 New Orleans Saints yearbook is on now and the Seahawks are on later. I’m in for the night but feel free to drop by. Bring pizza.

8. The Last Folk Hero. Jeff Pearlman has a few football books to his credit, including Sweetness, a Walter Payton biography. The Last Folk Hero focuses on Bo Jackson and the insane stories surrounding his athletic greatness in a time before Twitter and instant news. It’s on my bookshelf with a bookmark stuck on page 50ish, not because it isn’t good but because I didn’t get far before football season started. This will be the first football book I read this off-season and will be sure to pack a punch of nostalgia as Bo was a huge figure in my youth.

9. Take Your Eye Off the Ball. Pat Kirwin’s 2010 book (there’s a 2.0 version updated in 2015) is the perfect book to take your fandom from casual to the next level. If you’ve ever wanted to take that next step in understanding football at a deeper level, this is where you should start. Or, alternatively, this is the perfect gift for someone in your life that might be at that stage. I wish this book had been written twenty years earlier so that my younger self would have had something to channel all that football passion into other than spiral notebooks and scribbles. The version that I picked up years ago had blank sheets attached to track plays. It’s something I’ve done many times for prepping podcasts or writing articles but I think it’s a great tool for anyone who wants to understand the game a little better.

10. Monsters. Let’s end with a Bears book. If you haven’t read Monsters by Rich Cohen, change that now. It’s well done and essential reading for Chicago Bears fans. I’ve read at least a dozen Bears books but this one is probably my favorite of the bunch.

What are you reading, watching, and listening to other than the games? Hit up the comment section and let me know what I’m missing.