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The off-season makes the NFL unique

There's no sport like the NFL. None. No sport circles weekend dates on their off-season calendar like the NFL. No sport takes college prospects, puts them through a series of tests and has their own network broadcast the NFL Scouting Combine with 26 hours of coverage with a company like Reebok sponsoring the broadcast. Let's keep in mind here, we're talking about guys sprinting short distances, shuttling between cones, putting up a few pounds, jumping, talking and taking a series of written exams. All for numbers that most will tell us that doesn't matter. What's the measure of a guy's heart? Why not have receivers, at a combine, catch passes. I know, that's usually a pro-day thing. Still, wouldn't it be worth watching, you know, guys showing off their football skills not whoring themselves out in front of guys with stop watches, clip boards and superiority judgment?

No sport encourages fans, for six days, to watch a series of workouts that would make a 500-lap NASCAR race fun to watch from start to finish.

The NFL is unique. Along with the maddening coverage of the NFL Combine, we twist off the cap of another Budweiser as midnight approaches for free agency. We put ourselves through hours of first-round coverage in late April during the NFL draft -- though some of us watch the whole damned thing. We watch meaningless pre-season games to see how our third and fourth string guys play against other third and fourth string guys.

We praise when we hear at the start of the off-season that there will be change. We curse when we realize that change will be minimal. Some of us attack like wild guerillas against the area's beat writers for not providing more information. We criticize the main writer on the team's official web site when no other company in the world allows their web site to publish anything considered negative.

It feeds into our infatuated demand for more information. More. More. More. We want new signings everyday. We want information that will make us proud to be fans; some to even justify themselves as fans.

It's why the NFL is unique. There's no off-season anymore. Players can spend all off-season working out, eating health bars while their NFL fathers were forced to work labor jobs. In the off-season, we scour web sites for gossip. Someone on the trading block? Who's interested in signing the 35-year old linebacker or a wide receiver that's 10 receptions away from retirement? We read upwards to 40 newspapers, all the team sites and local blogs.

We spend months wondering which player will be drafted where. Most NFL fans analyze what top-five positions their team needs to address. Then they'll put together their own top-five list of college players they think should be drafted at each position.

It keeps us busy. Baseball's controversies hasn't given many NFL fans much relief. NASCAR is fun to watch, but it doesn't appeal to everyone. March Madness helps some, but it's here and gone just as quick. Instead of filling our quiet time with other sports, we focus ourselves on the NFL's off-season. Why not? We like to see how our team will develop for the new season.

The NFL is definitely unique.