Next NFL season is a long, long way off, Bucko.
  • Next NFL season is a long, long way off, Bucko.
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I have Dewey Not-His-Real-Name Pienkey on the phone. He’s a Nevada friend from olden days. Third generation, born and raised in Searchlight, a town of 550, an hour’s drive south of Vegas, known for the El Rey Bordello and senate majority leader Harry Reid.

The early Mirage line had New England favored by 3½ points. That line lasted from 1:30 p.m. all the way to 2:30 p.m. on January 23, then moved down to 3 points and there it sat. Dewey wanted to bet the Giants but wanted another ½ point, so he chased 3½ points for the next 13 days. The line didn’t move, so, Sunday morning, Dewey abandoned the Giants and put $5000 on the Pats, giving three points. I called to offer condolences.

Dewey says, as any good gambler will, “That’s not a problem. It’s the end of the football year that hurts.”

Which is true. It’s not only that you wake up the morning after Super Bowl Sunday with a hangover. And not only that, it’s the beginning of another workweek. Those conditions have been dealt with many times before. The problem is the alien world you now inhabit. You’ve been ripped from home, hearth, family, friends, and cast down into No NFL World. That’s what hurts.

I say, “Let the great famine begin.”

The day after Super Bowl marks the beginning of the great emptiness, like crossing the Pacific in 1521. There is no end of ocean. You sail through the Strait of Magellan into the Pacific. Two months further on, you’ll be standing on the quarterdeck, spyglass sighted to the western horizon, and think, This has no end. Your journey could go on forever; maybe, likely even, you’ll fall off the end of the Earth. In other words, it’s seven months before the 2012 NFL season goes off.

For Dewey, nothing can replace NFL emptiness. There is nothing to fill Saturdays, Sundays, Sunday nights, Monday nights, or Thursday nights. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Used to be, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were given over to anticipation. Dewey rode a fan’s high fueled by web-surfing, ESPN in all its forms, and sports radio. Dewey will reach the right level of enthusiasm by kickoff time. Depend on it.

Suddenly, no more anticipating the big game, no bullshitting about big game, no emailing about big game, no wagering and no arguing about big game. Suddenly, end of quality companionship time, end of quality tavern time, end of quality telephone calls. Even the sports page leaves a bitter taste; the newspaper speaks to other people now, creatures who follow non-NFL sports.

It’s over. No more playoffs, no more Super Bowl, no more (God help us) Pro Bowls. Nothing. NFL is done, and we won’t see its like until pumpkins return to Capistrano. Seven months will pass before we watch another surgeon dig into a Rob Gronkowski ankle and root around for bone fragments or watch a Joe Theismann turn his foot backward and try to tap dance on AstroTurf. Seven months is enough time to have a world economic meltdown, enough time for a viviparous shark to become impregnated and give birth to a little maneater, enough time for a field of watermelons to grow and rot, enough time for...it’s a long, long time, Bucko.

I say, “Dewey, what are you going to do, start talking to your wife and kids?”

“Looks like,” Dewey says. Long pause. “Will they want to have dinner at the dining room table? How long does that take?” Pause. “No, I’m kidding. Great wife, great kids.... It’s just that...they’re always around. Just kidding.”

“I see a reeducation camp in your future.”

Dewey mumbles, “Great wife. Great kids.”

“Buck up, lad. March Madness is coming.”

“Yeah, goes three weeks,” Dewey says. “Sure, I’ll watch some. Why not? Who cares? Baseball begins its endless, dreary slo-mo in April. Unwatchable dreck. There is the NFL draft. It’s a tease to let me know what I’m missing. The NBA isn’t worth watching until the playoffs. Even then I can’t watch the Lakers one more time. That’s not possible.”

“How about soccer?”

“I’m an American; I don’t care for soccer. Golf, how do people watch golf on TV? What do these people do the rest of the time? Why are they here?”

“Come on, Dewey — the summer Olympics. You’ve got to like the summer Olympics.”

“Conflicts with the opening of NFL training camps. It will be a distraction.”

I pull out my last suggestion. “There is hockey. There is always hockey on channel 9000.”

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