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Enjoy preseason games responsibly, football fans

There was a time when the 2008 Detroit Lions were perfect.

For four weeks, the Lions rolled over the competition the way native son Eminem would truck Drake in a rap battle. First the Giants, then the Bengals, Browns and Bills. The Lions outscored their opponents 80-32 over the stretch. The Motor City roared on the fuel of high-octane hope.

After that final victory in Buffalo, Lions coach Rod Marinelli was asked what an undefeated preseason meant. His response was clipped, logical and prophetic.


Poor Rod was right. Once the calendar flipped to September, the NFL's perfect preseason team became the all-time example of imperfection. Detroit lost every game during the 2008 season, taking its place in history as the first -- and still only -- 0-16 team.

Why do I bring this up? For what reason would I resurface this painful memory for a franchise that has too many to count? Consider it an example and reminder of how little the final scores mean in the preseason games we'll watch for the next four weeks.

Trust me, I'm not trying to patronize you. The large majority of football fans understand the preseason is worth bunk from a wins-and-losses standpoint. But one can only assume there are some of you who are giddy after the Ravens edged the defending NFC champions on Michael Phelps Night. Take that, Cam Newton! (The MVP played one series.)

Conversely, there are surely some people in the Chicago metro area filled with despair after the Bears were shut out at home by the defending Super Bowl champs. Actually, you guys probably should be a little nervous. The Broncos played without Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.

Speaking of which, let's all join hands, bow our heads and offer a prayer of hope for the Super Bowl MVP.

The Bears' impending doom aside, let's all try to keep things in perspective over these next four weeks. If you're not going to take my word for it (I get it), listen to Phil Rivers.

"To me, the preseason is the most over-analyzed 10 plays or whatever it is -- ever," the Chargers quarterback told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "If these plays are really good that doesn't mean we're an awesome team yet. If they're terrible, that doesn't mean we're not gonna be awesome."

Well put, you fantastically virile son of a gun. Perspective is vital this time of year. With that said, here's a quick guide to watching preseason football the right way.

Don't worry about the final score

By the time the fourth quarter rolls around in these games -- i.e., the time when a football game is decided -- half the roster is populated by future UPS drivers, personal trainers, club bouncers and reserve linebackers for the Dubrovnik Dragons. Special teams jobs, not real games, are won and lost in preseason crunch time.

Do check the injury report

A crappy reality of the preseason: The games might not matter, but large humans running at full speed toward each other will always lead to cart rides and MRI exams. Just ask Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who now knows what it would be like if his arm were constructed like a defective McFarlane statue. Wait, you really want to watch that play? Do you own all the "Saw" movies on Blu-ray or something? Have at it, sicko.

Don't fall in love too fast

If you watch your team closely enough this month, there probably will be a young guy who jumps off the screen. Be intrigued, be excited, but keep it all in perspective. Preseason and regular-season action are distant cousins. Yeah, that undrafted running back just broke 17 tackles on his 64-yard touchdown run, but who was actually trying to tackle him? For every Thomas Rawls, there are six Zach Zenners.

Pay attention to position battles

This is where the real competition is at. Every snap matters. Look no further than the defending Super Bowl champs, who have an old-fashioned quarterback battle in SANCHEZ vs. SIEMIAN. Goosebumps, people. QB battles also can be found in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Cleveland. (You're not really buying RGIII as the no-doubt Week 1 starter, are you?) Also, kicker and punter battles are fun and the easiest to judge from home.

Do accept free tickets ... with stipulations

The biggest scam in sports has to be season-ticket holders being forced to pay full price for two preseason tilts. Not surprisingly, these are the tickets most likely to be offered to you for free or at nominal cost. Fun fact: My dad took me to approximately 35 Jets preseason games during my childhood.

Given the weather (hot, humid, gross) and quality of games (see above), I only accept these tickets with a series of escalating qualifiers. This is my NFL preseason football attendance rider:

1) The tickets must be free. 2) A parking pass must be included. 3) The other guy -- whoever that other guy is -- must drive. 4) I will supply the cornhole boards, football, frisbee etc. for tailgate fun at no cost, but you must supply all beer/mixers/ice/Tito's® brand vodka and all necessary grilling goods and supplies. 5) I will buy your first beer inside stadium (craft selections excluded).

OK, who's picking me up?

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