By Mo Nuwwarah, Sports/Health Editor
After 18 weeks and four days, the NFL lockout officially ended on July 25, as the owners and players agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. It’s all sunshine and daisies again for football fans across the country who feared the season might be canceled.
Every fan will celebrate the return of America’s favorite sports league in his or her own way. Since I’m a writer, I’m going to do so by listing eight reasons we should all be rejoicing.
8. True football junkies need the highest quality football
College football is great, and it’s certainly king in this state. I love the Huskers and college football just like every other football fan who was born and raised here, but there’s no denying that the quality of the football pales in comparison to the pro game.
The NFL features better, more prepared athletes executing more complex schemes. The silly mistakes, blown coverages, special teams gaffes and gimmick strategies common in college football are a rare sight in the NFL.
Football junkies love the emotion, tension and unique atmosphere of college football, but we also need our fix of the best teams playing the best football.
7. The Patriots added Haynesworth and Ochocinco
The New England Patriots, long known for having a tight-knit crew of players who always put the team before self, have added two of the more self-centered personalities in the game.
Chad Ochocinco has spent years doing anything to put the spotlight on himself. He’s done everything from change his name to race a horse. His zany antics have entertained fans and media alike.
Albert Haynesworth, meanwhile, has flamed out in two years with the Washington Redskins. After stomping through the league – sometimes literally – with the Tennessee Titans, he commanded top dollar on the free-agent market and promptly turned into an overweight malcontent.
New England acquired both of these unpredictable characters. How will they fit in with the Patriots’ culture?
6. We dodged a crime wave
“Do this research if we don’t have a season – watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away our game,” Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio in a May interview.
Whew. Good thing we avoided the imminent crime spike.
5. Vick tries to complete ultimate comeback
Michael Vick put his well-documented legal troubles aside for a few months of football glory last year, leading the Eagles to the third seed in the NFC playoffs. He set career highs with 63 percent of his passes completed, 3018 passing yards, a 100.2 quarterback rating, 9 rushing touchdowns, 21 passing touchdowns and a 3.5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Now, the one-time first overall draft pick is part of arguably the most talented team in the league, as the Eagles have snatched up seemingly every top free agent. The stage is set for Vick to try to go from pariah to Super Bowl champion.
4. Fantasy football’s back
Millions of Americans participate in fantasy football. Even the most casual fans have teams. Last Christmas, I could only shake my head in wonder as I heard my pregnant cousin, who I didn’t even know was an NFL fan, having an animated discussion about her fantasy team.
The craze of drafting, managing and trading players seems to grow each year, as many fans love the added intrigue brought by fantasy participation – not to mention the chance to win prize money in many leagues. Let the games begin.
3. We might not have the NBA
For diehard sports fans, the dead of winter might be the best time of year. On any given day, we can plop down on our couches knowing that there’s either football or basketball on.
That could change in a major way if the NBA lockout drags on into the winter, as many are predicting it may. The players and owners are still “hundreds of millions of dollars apart,” according to a recent report by CBS Sports’ Ken Berger.
As the NBA season heads toward total lockout oblivion, I can only imagine how distraught sports fans would be if the NFL season were canceled as well.
2. Players aren’t getting any younger
Peyton Manning is 35. Tom Brady is 33. Ray Lewis is 36.
Football careers usually don’t last long, so every year is precious. It would’ve been truly sad if we missed out on watching these transcendent players for a year and even sadder if they’d been robbed of a valuable year of their careers.
What if Manning had finished a few touchdowns short of the all-time record and had stubborn negotiators to blame?
1. What else were you going to do with your Sunday afternoons…