Somebody hold me. Please?

Preseason football is a lot like 21st century American political discourse. On the internet. You basically have carte blanche to decide for yourself which facts you choose to acknowledge and which you prefer to scoff at as misleading or, by golly, just plain not real. Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose that's largely true in the regular and postseasons as well. But it's especially true in the preseason, because you've got a built-in trump card: "IT'S PRESEASON!" After all, it doesn't count in the standings, and therefore doesn't have to matter if you don't want it to. It doesn't even have to have actually happened at all.

Hell, you don't even have to have any particular reason for choosing to discount, ignore or flatly deny anything you might find unpleasant, even if you've just seen it with your own eyes. Sure, it'll probably help you "win" any number of internet arguments if you have something that sounds like a reason. Especially if it's an old-school platitude most people have been conditioned to accept as truth. Which is why sports fans tend to keep themselves armed with an array of them. Especially in the preseason.

  • They were trying harder than we were!
  • The playcallers didn't game plan and were running "vanilla" schemes!
  • We run harder practices and so our guys had a more acute case of "camp legs" than they did!
  • We didn't want to "show our cards" and give future opponents an early whiff of our impending greatness!
  • We totally would have come back to win in the second half if the starters had played the whole game!

And if all else fails, you can always trot out past preseason records of completely different teams in completely different years. As if it's even remotely relevant that the Colts went 0-4 in preseason and went on to win the Super Bowl a half-decade ago, or that Detroit went 4-0 in the preseason even farther back than that, and then went on to win only two regular season games.

Well, except that it TOTALLY PROVES(!!!) the Ed Daniels Principle™: "August is a filthy damn liar!!!"

Preseason is paradise for homers, but even moreso for skeptics and contrarians. Homers can discount any unpleasantness, but usually are at the mercy of anything positive. We just can't help ourselves, we can't (and usually don't want to) keep a lid on our giddiness. But the skeptics and contrarians can discount everything, positive or negative, as meaningless or even not-real.

And that's checkmate in the annual preseason pissing contest among fans, to separate the "smarts" from the "marks" on the basis of who can manage to remain most stoic and dismissive of anything and everything that might happen on the field, with the exception of injuries. See, the smarts realize that IT'S PRESEASON! IT'S ALL FAKE! MEANINGLESS! COMPLETE BULLSHIT! Or something.

It may not come as a shock to you that I think the Legitimate Media™ is largely to blame. Preseason is primetime for media types to set themselves above fans and lecture us about how it would be wise to keep our ugly fannish tendencies in check and… well… try to be more like them. You know… even-keeled, analytical, detached, impartial, and all those other qualities media types possess that make them far more capable of grasping the reality of any given situation than we are.

But I also blame us for buying into it and, par for the course, going so overboard with it that many of us these days just reflexively refuse to believe anything we see in preseason, positive or negative, on any grounds that strike as plausible basis for denial.

Starters jump out to a 28-point lead? Don't get too excited. I watched the replay on NFL Network game film, and except for that 28-point lead, they kinda sucked actually. And clearly there are depth issues, their backups beat our backups 14-0 in the second half.

Saints get their asses handed to them all night long like they did Saturday night in Houston? Wait for it… wait for it… THE SKY IS NOT FALLING! Did you not notice that except for the 55 or so minutes when they were kicking our asses up and down the field, we were pretty much mopping the floor with them? Seriously, quit being Chicken Little and go watch the highlight reel game film! You'll feel much better about it and realize that it was nothing more than a fake ass-kicking that didn't even count and doesn't matter because IT'S PRESEASON! Just wait until it counts and you see the Real™ Saints. It'll be nothing like this, promise.

By the way, can we please quit with all the "THE SKY IS [or IS NOT] FALLING!!!" stuff? Find an idiom that didn't jump the shark somewhere around 1895 already, would ya? Consarnit! For crying out loud, if the Saints had a missed tackle or a whiffed pass-blocking assignment Saturday night for every time somebody trotted out that tired old admonition… oh, wait, I suppose they did…

Look, we get it. We really, really do. August is a liar. Preseason isn't real. The scores don't count, the records don't count, nobody's even gonna remember any of this a month from now. The only important thing is for the team to come through it healthy. (The Saints have been doing a bang-up job of that too, don't you think?) Preseason isn't about winning, and apparently it's not even about not sucking either. It's about evaluation.

Well, here's my evaluation: The Texans kicked the Saints right in the crotch Saturday night. Consistently and thoroughly.

Oh, I know, I know. Sure, the Saints "weren't really trying" Saturday night. Or something. Sean Payton and Gregg Williams weren't even scheming. Obviously because they didn't want to show the Texans anything they could scout and be prepared for when the Saints play them in the regular season (when it counts!!!)

I mean, it's not like the Texans have 5 seasons worth of (actual, non-YouTube) game film on the Saints at their disposal or anything. I'm sure the Saints have a whole game worth of brand new shit to throw at them in the regular season that the Texans have never ever seen before. Oh yeah, they were totally luring Houston into a false sense of security. They probably won't even know what hit 'em when Payton and Williams unleash the hounds in week 3 (when it counts!!!) Which is why the Saints were so… wait for it… VANILLA!

Say, can we go ahead and retire VANILLA(!!!) as the go-to descriptor for preseason (non-)gameplanning while we're at it? Vanilla is fuckin' delicious! How did vanilla ever become synonymous with plain, boring, mundane, bland and unexotic? That stuff comes from Madagascar, Tahiti, Tonga, the Comoros and all kinds of crazy kickass places! Seems to me "vanilla" more accurately describes something Gregg Williams would unleash on 3rd & 14 in the regular season. Against Jimmy Clausen.

But if there's one thing you're just about guaranteed to hear more often in the preseason than "THE SKY IS [or IS NOT] FALLING!!!" or "IT'S PRESEASON!!!" it's "VANILLA!!!"

Here's the problem with the "vanilla" excuse: It's probably far less likely that Payton and Williams were "playing their cards close to the vest" for the sake of blowing Houston's minds next month by pulling out a deck full of trump cards as Gary Kubiak furrows his brow in a vain attempt to comprehend the situation.

It's far more likely that it was about lining 'em up mano-a-mano, straight up, and trying to get a feel for what kinds of weaknesses you're gonna have to scheme to hide, protect, mitigate, compensate for, and all those kinds of things, in order to avoid getting your ass kicked when it counts!!!

The good news? If that was the plan, it worked. The bad news? The list appears to be a good bit longer and pants-shittingly frightening than had been anticipated.

Worse yet? Much of the pants-shitting is a direct result of the lines. Both of 'em. Uh oh. Hell, any student of the game will tell you that in this league football games are won and lost in the trenches.

Here's what our trenches are filled with right about now:

  • A 4th year left tackle who most people think sucks
  • Possibly the best left guard in the league… who left practice yesterday with an apparent sports hernia in his knee
  • A Plan B left guard who's actually a 2nd-year center whose audition for the starting C gig lasted about two practices before the team brought in…
  • A 34-year old center heading into his 14th season, whose previous team cut him loose without a replacement on the roster
  • A right guard who may or may not have begun the process of "pulling a Charles Grant" about 10 seconds after having been made the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history
  • A right tackle who's been a backup for his entire 5-year career, after having been beaten out for a starting gig two years ago by the aforementioned left tackle who most people still think sucks, and is most known for being a wacky tackle-eligible pseudo-tight-end who flubbed his only opportunity at catching a pass
  • A right defensive end who's probably gonna spend the first quarter of the regular season in street clothes
  • One of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the league… out for a month or so (if we're lucky) with an MCL
  • A first-round rookie who we all penciled in as an instant starter at left defensive end back in May, but lately we're having to constantly remind ourselves is actually on the team

Guh. If you've been wondering what the source is for all that steam rising from our trenches lately…

Hey, on the bright side, MITCH KING, BITCHES! There's also Jeff Charleston, and that Canadian dude. Oh and don't forget Junior!

Look, I'm not saying WE'RE DOOOOOMED or anything. But there's no sense in refusing to acknowledge that the situation right now on both lines is a hot mess. And while we here at moosedenied are not yet in a full-blown PANIC(!!!) because Jeff Duncan told us we shouldn't be (thanks J-Dunc) we're not too proud to admit that we're getting more than a little nervous over here. Preseason or not, that kind of stuff is pretty fuckin' significant.

Fortunately for us, the Saints just happen to have two of the most clever "schemers" in the league. Not to mention that those same guys also happen to be two of the best "motivators" in the league as well. (Payton has recently acquired one of Tom Landry's hats and everything.) I'm just sayin', it's a damn good thing they are, because all indications right about now are that they're gonna have to be. Unless things change radically, and pronto, it looks like there's a decent chance we're gonna need a couple of smoke machines and as many mirrors as we can get our hands on over here.

"Oh, sack up already and quit crying, Wang. After the San Francisco game you were telling us the Saints' next loss was gonna be 5 years from now. And after the Saints kick the shit out of the Raiders, you'll be saying the same thing."

I sure hope you're right. Feel free to mock the shit out of me if you are. Let's just go ahead and agree now that nobody will talk about the fact that San Francisco and Oakland both blow, and Houston doesn't. Deal?

Meantime, if anybody's down for a good long spooning…

You could stroke my hair and reassure me that it's just preseason, and it's not real, none of it matters, and in a couple of weeks I'll wake up back in the real world and everything will be just fine. Because I could really use a little bit of that right about now. No homo though. And no meaningless, bullshit preseason football clichés either.

I just priced myself out of the market didn't I? Shit.

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