On Thursday night, a 95-yard interception for a touchdown by Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein was negated for another player’s sideline exhibition. I’ll give you a hint: the player’s name rhymes with Damn Tootin’. The rhymed name clearly reveals we are talking about Cam Newton and also conveys our collective lack of surprise that his overzealous conduct and self-indulgence has once again lead to a penalty.
After the interception and while the ball was still in play, Newton ran onto the field from the sidelines in celebration drawing a flag for an illegal substitution. Though the Ravens offense was also flagged during the play for an illegal formation, that penalty was declined while the penalty against Newton was enforced. Klein was on the 21 yard line when Newton crossed the plane of play resulting in the ball being placed at the 26 for the Panthers offense rather than a touchdown for the Panthers defense.
Sidebar: some of you may be wondering why the offensive and defensive penalties didn’t offset and the touchdown didn’t stand, so allow me to briefly explain. The illegal formation by the Ravens offense occurred before the ball was intercepted by Klein. The change of possession nullified the offensive penalty, and the defensive penalty occurred long after the nullification. Thus, the defensive penalty was enforced, Klein’s touchdown was reversed, and the Panthers offense took over at the 26 yard line (i.e. 5 yards from the spot of the foul).
Now, I have a few things to say about this (shocking, I know). First, I have and always will appreciate Cam Cam’s enthusiasm and passion for the game. However, I do believe he has a tendency to misplace that enthusiasm and passion and often demonstrates it in a less than appropriate and/or professional manner. Thursday night’s celebration is a classic example. With this being said, I did take some pleasure from the fact that it occurred during preseason because it proved that Cam Newton’s excitement persists during a phase of the season that most people disregard altogether. There’s something refreshing about it. It also suggests that Cam may be the only person in the whole world who actually cares about preseason football.
But, believe it or not, Cam has this one right (the caring about preseason part). Which brings me to my point: you should care about preseason, too, and I’m going to tell you why.
From the fan standpoint, though your starters aren’t playing enough to make a complete evaluation of your team’s Super Bowl potential, it is still a good opportunity to get a preview of the deepest in your team’s depth chart, developing coaching/player dynamics, strategic trends in formations and play-calling, etc. Preseason is when you can identify breakdowns in the chain of command and possible team interaction issues that will affect play later in the season.
From the fantasy standpoint, preseason is important for singling out sleepers and quality fringe players. It is do-or-die time for fringe players who are often competing for the number two spot. These are the guys you will be scrambling to pick up when Josh Gordon inevitably gets suspended for smoking weed. It’s always good policy to have a mental inventory of back-ups in the event things go south early in the season.
We all have our reasons to hate preseason. It places players at risk of injury before the season even starts. It’s “meaningless” because it doesn’t impact your team’s win-loss ratio. The level of play is a joke; the star players sit out, and the rest don’t care about the outcome so they underperform. It’s boring because the plays are conventional and safe, and the games are low-scoring. But, there are plenty of reasons to care about preseason and much more than what I’ve briefly acknowledged here. I’ll leave you with one last reason to care about preseason (and, incidentally, it’s also my reason for caring): IT IS FOOTBALL, AND BAD FOOTBALL IS BETTER THAN NO FOOTBALL.