PHILADELPHIA — It’s the last dress rehearsal before the start of the NFL’s regular season.
That is the only reason to care about the league’s final preseason games that will be staged across this football-crazed country Thursday night.
Even the dress-rehearsal description is a misnomer because almost all of the players who will have an impact on the opening-day NFL games will dress but not rehearse anything. Instead, they will be confined to the player-protection program next to their coaches on the sideline.
No one who matters is going to be hurt, except for the roughly one million fans who have been forced to buy the seats because of the NFL’s moneygrubbing ticket policy.
In case you don’t know the policy, it works like this: Season-ticket holders for all 32 teams are required to pay for 10 home games.
The league doesn’t care that two of those 10 games are exhibitions. Nor does it care that the final game is an absolute farce because almost no one of any significance steps on the playing field once the game begins.
If you tune into the Eagles’ game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, you’ll get one last look at quarterback Matt Barkley, which is great if you’re fascinated by the play of a third-string quarterback. The only way you’ll see Barkley play beyond Thursday is if the season or the team’s quarterback situation crumbles into a disaster, a scenario within the realm of possibility.
I’ve seen my share of these preseason finales and, to be honest, they’re not worth the tickets they’re printed on.
There’s no thanks-for-your-support discount, either. No dollar dogs. No two-dollar beers. No three cheers for the greatest fans in the world. The NFL’s attitude is that you’ll pay full price for these mockeries and you’ll like it.
It’s like a car dealer forcing you to pay for a tattooed lady hood ornament and the Miley Cyrus 24-7 radio station.
One of the most outrageous rationalizations for the league’s season-ticket policy was recently presented via Twitter by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, a man who inherited the team from his father, Robert. The father knew a little something about larceny. Under the cloak of darkness, he stole the Colts from the city of Baltimore in 1984.
In a series of tweets earlier this month, Jim Irsay told NFL fans in general and Colts fans in particular that they were looking at this 10-game ticket package all wrong. His main point was that his team’s Oct. 20 home game against former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos was worth a lot more than the face value of the ticket.
Irsay believes individual game tickets should not even have a price on them because of the varying value of each game.
If he feels that strongly about it, Irsay should just dispose entirely of the Colts’ season-ticket plans and sell each game on an individual basis. It would be a huge gamble on his part, but at least then Colts fans would have the freedom of choice when it comes to what games they want to see.
If Irsay’s bottom line takes a hit because the Colts are not having a good season, the owner should not care. Each season, the value of the tickets will vary on how his team is performing. I’m guessing he would not like that idea.
At least Eagles season-ticket holders do not have to involuntarily pay to see this year’s bogus game against the Jets. The two teams have been playing each other in the final preseason game since 2001, which, by the way, was the last time an Eagles opening-day quarterback appeared in one of these games.
The last time an Eagles opening-day starter of any sort made an appearance in one of these games was in 2008 when fullback Tony Hunt and wide receiver Hank Baskett played against the Jets.
NFL coaches argue that these preseason finales are important because they give them an opportunity to look at the younger players fighting for the final spots on the 53-man roster.
That’s a valid point, but they could just as easily stage a scrimmage at the Jets or Eagles practice facility and find out the same things without ripping off the fans they say they care so much about.