I nodded when Simmons made this point, as he was hitting on something that I've been feeling, as well. Football hasn't grabbed me like it normally does over the summer. I normally get Phil Steele the moment that it hits the rack at Borders, but I got it as an afterthought this year. I had to remind myself to order the Football Outsiders preview, despite the fact that they have done a great job in beefing up the college coverage. I'll freely grant that as someone who has always been a soccer fan and has become more intense in that preference over the past several years - in part because so many games are on the TV and in part as a coping mechanism because Michigan football and the Braves have been weak while Barca has been very strong - I'm not a representative example. Or at least I felt that way until Simmons voiced similar thoughts.
It was interesting to me that Simmons omitted baseball from his list of stories that have reduced the anticipation for the season, especially in light of the fact that he just wrote a column explaining why Red Sox fans are feeling a sense of ennui about this year's edition. If any fan base should be looking forward to football season, it's one with the expectations of Red Sox fans that sees its team well behind the Yankees and Rays in the AL East. Spoiled fans, perhaps? (I don't mean this as a criticism. This hasn't been an especially compelling baseball season in terms of national stories.
Upon reflection, though, the distribution of teams having good season might at least partially explain why college football isn't on the front of our brains in the summer like normal. (Obviously, Simmons wasn’t talking about college football when he said that football has suck up on him this year. As a product of his environment, college football is about the last thing on his radar.) There are two major regions for intense college football interest: the South and the Midwest. The flagship baseball team for the South - the Braves - is in first place. The Texas Rangers are in first place and the Rays are awfully close. In the Midwest, the Twins, Tigers (until recently), White Sox, Cards, and Reds have all had good summers. There was a heavy prevalence of Midwestern teams in the rankings of local ratings that I linked last week. In short, this has not been a baseball season dominated by the coasts, so fan bases that would normally give up on baseball and start obsessing about the depth chart on the offensive line have had their interest held by their local baseball collectives. The fact that the baseball playoffs have been a random number generator for years adds to the interest.
Another factor in the comparative lack of college football dominating my thoughts as it normally would at this stage (and, if I’m representative of other fans, the thoughts of others) is that this season doesn’t have an obvious dominant team(s) to drive attention. At this time last year, we had Tebow and Florida as the kings of the hill and McCoy’s Texas and Bradford’s Oklahoma in challenging positions. With quarterbacks filling a sometimes excessive role as driving attention, 2009 lent itself to a lot of preseason hype, but 2010 is not the same.
The “no alpha male teams” explanation does not apply to the NFL, which finished a banner season in 2009 with the lovable Saints beating Manning’s Colts in exciting fashion. Those teams are back again, as are a number of other very good teams with ready-made plot lines. There’s no reason for the NFL to sneak up on us this year, other than the fact that there has been less oxygen this summer for football stories because of LeBron, Tiger, and the vuvuzela.